International Women’s Day commemorated the development of women and raising awareness of the achievements of gender equality. It’s a good time to remind ourselves of decades of gender bias and the need to change them.
Men and women are not equal physically and mentally. This sounds obvious, but the world has only really begun to understand the difference between men and women.
These differences are not exactly reflected in medicine or health. Women’s health is often regarded as a niche area, even though it accounts for about 50% of the world’s population.
Under-studied and under-diagnosed
What we cannot deny is that being a woman puts us one a position to take on some of the most difficult challenges. For instance, autoimmune diseases impact about 8% of the total populace, yet 78% of them are women.
The female gender is three times bound to have arthritis than men, and four times bound to have multiple sclerosis. Women make up two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients, and the incidence of fatal heart disease is three times that of men. Women are at least twice as likely to suffer from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Different sex, Different symptoms
Heart disease is another area women are still suffering either misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. This is because women do not have the usual symptoms discovered by research, research in which most of the participants were men.
Similar symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort occur both in men and women but for most women, there are particular symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, back or jaw pain, and shortness of breath.
However, because research and diagnosis are still more inclined to men than it is for women, a lot of women encounter delayed diagnosis or even wrong diagnosis. It has been reported that women are diagnosed with heart disease seven to ten years later than their male counterparts.
This often leads women to develop chronic medical conditions that are discovered late by the time of their real diagnosis.
Male bias affects clinical studies
Historically, women have often been underrepresented in many pieces of medical research. One reason may be genetic and hormonal factors involved. For example, women of childbearing age were said to be excluded from any form of research in 1977 according to directives from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This was done to protect the vulnerable population; unborn children.
Additionally, the motive behind barring ladies in clinical investigations is that contingent upon where a woman is in her menstrual cycle, the variety of her hormones affects the outcomes. This unreliability would mean more subjects were required in clinical preliminaries, which led to an increase in cost.
Male-just research was supported by a conviction that what might work for men would likewise work for women. This wrong presumption has led to disastrous outcomes.
There are different sexes for every cell in the human body. This means that the diseases and medicines used to treat them will have different effects on men and women.
Of the 10 drugs withdrawn from the US market between 1997 and 2000, eight were withdrawn mainly due to side effects on women. Between 2004 and 2013, American women experienced more than 2 million drug-related side effects, compared to 1.3 million men.
Time to end gender bias
The lack of gender awareness and knowledge in the area of health care has become increasingly detrimental to the lives of many women around the world, and research has only now begun to resolve these issues.
Scientists now have to consider the role sex can play in the study of animals and humans in biology.
But the lack of funding for women’s health remains a major problem. In the past, according to British analysts, less than 2.5% of public funding went to reproductive health. However, every third woman has a reproductive or gynaecological problem.
This means that roughly 16% of the population’s annual research budget is affected. Although policies are being implemented to eliminate gender inequalities in medicine, there is still a long way to go.