Making an Impact on Girls’ Health

Making an Impact on Girls’ Health

Vanja Ljevar is a fourth-year Horizon CDT PhD candidate whose research project Perceptions About Life with Asthma explores the impact certain factors have on the adherence to asthma treatment. As part of her PhD internship, Vanja worked on a project about menstrual pain and the overall stigma that exists with it.

Menstrual pain is a common occurrence in the lives of women and girls. However, it has been difficult to measure the scale of menstrual pain on the national level, due to difficulties in obtaining the data on a large scale. Using the benefits of the transactional data, this research created a proxy of menstrual pain purchases: purchases that contain both pain relief items and menstrual products such as tampons or sanitary towels. The goal was to use this new measure to investigate the prevalence of menstrual pain in England and whether there were significant differences between deprived and less deprived areas of England in terms of this measure. The findings indicate that at least 26% of customers that purchase menstrual items also purchase pain killers in the same basket. In addition, contrary to claims from the previous studies, there was a statistically significant difference between deprived and less deprived regions in terms of proportion of menstrual pain sales, as well as a negative correlation between deprivation score and menstrual pain measure. This means that more deprived areas had a significantly lower level of menstrual pain purchases, which potentially signals period poverty and the inability of customers from socio-economically disadvantaged regions to afford necessary medication. The strongest Pearson correlation exists between education deprivation and menstrual pain purchase, which arguably signifies the role of education in creating more awareness and removing the stigma around menstruation-related concepts.

Vanja has recently turned this project into a paper to be submitted to The European Conference on Machine Learning and Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases conference (ECML PKDD 2021) as well as given a talk about it to the KAS Association, a non-government organization for gender equality based in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

KAS Banja Luka has a vision of a world in which every girl is safe, educated, and empowered, especially girls with disabilities, who encounter double discrimination. KAS is involved in several projects and workshops organizations, however during the COVID19 their focus has been on producing educational content in sign language about the prevention of COVID-19, creation or buying of face masks which are designed for the deaf and hard of hearing population, as well as food and hygiene support and psychological support to deaf and hard of hearing girls. This is particularly relevant as deaf and hard of hearing girls still lack access to vital information about COVID-19 and its prevention, social distancing has negatively affected girls who rely on daily support from assistants and translators and mask wearing is affecting their ability to lip read and see facial expressions, which is excluding them from conversations.