Air Date

February 28, 2024

Featured Guests

Kathryn McKenzie
Divisional Vice President, Global Citizenship and Sustainability, Abbott

Ritu Sharma
Vice President of U.S. Programs and Policy Advocacy, CARE


Shanique Streete
Executive Director, Programs


As of 2023, 90% of patient-facing workers in the global health care sector are women. However, this predominantly female workforce is often underpaid, undervalued, and lacking in support when it comes to decision-making and leadership roles. 

During the 14th Annual International Women’s Day Forum, Executive Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Shanique Streete spoke with fellow female industry experts about empowering women on the frontlines of health care through strategic corporate programs and investments. 

The Frontline Health Care Worker Shortage Is an Economic Opportunity for Women  

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the global health care workforce has seen a large drop in paid and unpaid worker numbers. Ritu Sharma, vice president of U.S. programs and policy advocacy at CARE, said that the current 18 million person gap around the world is an incredible economic opportunity for women interested in community health work, so long as they are paid and respected. 

“We have begun really seeing this workforce as an invisible army that is actually taking care of the health needs of billions of people,” Sharma said. “And it's time to make them visible. It's time to protect them, it's time to pay them, it's time to promote them, and it's time to prioritize them.” 

Sharma noted that CARE’s “She Heals The World” initiative provides frontline and community health workers with the resources they need to become empowered and make real change in their communities. 

Investment Is Needed To Support Women Health Workers and Women-Led Community Initiatives 

Kathryn McKenzie, divisional vice president of global citizenship and sustainability at Abbott, discussed her company’s work to support humanitarian relief as part of their overall priority of expanding access to care. In emergency settings, she said, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease and diabetes are often neglected and the untapped potential of women to lead the way and deliver change is overlooked, as well.  

These are the key reasons Abbott partnered with CARE to create the Future Well in Crisis program in Marawi in the Philippines in 2018. 

“The goal of this [program] was really to build a scalable and replicable model in a resource-limited environment to prevent and treat noncommunicable diseases through counseling, building capacity, education, and screening,” McKenzie explained. “A key focus here was mobilizing the displaced population, especially women.”

Through the program, women were recruited and trained as community health workers to lead NCD clubs to conduct screenings and provide health education. By the second year, 80% of participants had reduced their risk of cardiovascular events. 

“Every day, women are on the frontlines of health care, bringing real-life solutions to health challenges globally,” McKenzie said. “We need to invest in women today so they can take care of health in the future.”