by Kimberly Allen, RN
What are women’s health issues, what makes them different, and why are they so important? In the US women account for 51% of the total population, in those over 65 years of age 59% are women and it goes up even more to 71% of Americans over 85 years of age are women. Women are not only vital members of our society but also play a crucial part in the health of our nation. They are not only mothers and personal caregivers, but many are health care professional and teachers as well as leaders in their communities. Historically women have been the primary health care providers as well as the decision makers for their families when it comes to health care.
Women’s health issues cover a wide range of different issues. Though it’s true that many of the same conditions affect both men and women there are many that affect only women or are more common in women. Also, many of the conditions that affect both men and women affect women differently and require different treatments than men do. In the past, Drs and researchers considered men’s bodies to be the norm and the discoveries in medical research were then generalized to fit women. For years, women were excluded form research and clinical trials, the main reason given was the potential for harm to a fetus present and in the future. Also, the researchers believed the complex hormonal changes that occur in women would alter the outcome of the research. This lead to numerous medications, treatment and diagnostic measures that were developed based on the biology and physiology of men which is clearly different then that of women. This means that women are being diagnosed and treated based on information about what is effective for men.
There are many that believe women’s health issues should receive as much attention as men’s and have pushed for more equality in medical research and treatment. Recently the FDA set new guidelines for large scale drug studies requiring that half of all subjects in any study must be female. These studies are showing many differences as well as similarities between men and women when it comes to all aspects of health care. Despite the changes imposed by the FDA, many still believe that the current health care system has created the gender bias in health and medicine. This has driven women’s health advocates to lobby for a more comprehensive system for women’s health care. So now the World Health Organization defined gender equality in health as ” the elimination of unnecessary, unjust, and avoidable differences between men and women and their potential for enjoying good health and in the likelihood of becoming ill, disabled or dying from preventable causes.”
In the past, gender equality focused on equal opportunities for women in the workplace, and fair pay as well as violence against women. Though many women’s rights advocates continue to fight for these things, the major focus has shifted to gender equality in health and medicine.
Researchers, Drs and society in general are now realizing the importance of women’s health issues. It’s now getting more attention than in the past and has become a significant issue both in medicine as well as politics. Many have realized that as women’s position in society has changed they are now busier than ever juggling work, care of the home and family leaving them highly susceptible to adverse health affects that can worsen and become serious if they do not receive the care they need and deserve.
Just as the experts came to realize that children are not small adults and require different approaches to health care they are now realizing that women are not just female versions of men and they also require different approaches to health care.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.