Gender bias

Topic: Gender bias in medicine and medical research is still putting women’s health at risk

International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievements and raises awareness of the continuing mission towards gender equality. So it’s a good time to be reminded we still need to correct decades — centuries even — of gender bias in medicine and medical research.

It’s no secret men and women are different. It’s why we have a whole genre of books and jokes about why “men are from Mars and women are from Venus”.

Mentally, physically and biologically, men and women are simply not built the same way. It sounds obvious, but we have only really begun to understand why.

These differences have not been reflected accurately in the field of medicine. Women’s health has too often been considered a niche area — even though it involves roughly 50% of the world’s population.

Under-researched and under-diagnosed

What we do know is that being female puts us at higher risk of some of the most challenging conditions. Autoimmune diseases, for example, affect approximately 8% of the global population, but 78% of those affected are women.

Females are three times more likely than males to develop rheumatoid arthritis and four times more likely to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system.

Women make up two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and are three times more likely to have a fatal heart attack than men. Women are at least twice as likely to suffer chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic Lyme disease.

As author Maya Dusenbery made clear in her book “Doing Harm”, these conditions are under-researched and often go undiagnosed and untreated.

Topic Discussed: Gender bias in medicine and medical research is still putting women’s health at risk

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