Gender bias in healthcare

Gender prejudice is the action or treatment against a person based on their sex.  We see gender bias present in society in many forms, but healthcare is a crucial one. Bias in the medical field is damaging to the healthcare systems we rely on.

In healthcare, gender bias is when patients are diagnosed and treated differently, or at a lower standard because of their gender, even if the issue being treated is the same.  Avoiding bias in healthcare can be difficult for providers and patients at risk for it to avoid.  This bias creates dangers for medical treatment across many specialties.

There needs to be an equal quality of treatment between genders. Addressing the bias is the first step. Simply acknowledging and researching is a great way to get yourself familiar with the certain biases that could be present in a medical setting.  Gender bias will provide the medical field with research material for years to ensure everyone gets the care they deserve. 

Recognizing gender bias and accepting that it exists is how patients can ask the right questions. Patients must know what they are up against and what signs to look out for. By asking the right questions they can hopefully guide their treatment in the direction that fits best for them. 

Many research studies are skewed with higher participants being male.  Conducting more research involving women would ensure that they are being represented in medical care. This will, in turn, help gender bias considering fair studies will give better data. Women must be properly represented in medical studies to ensure that the differences between genders, as well as the similarities, are accounted for.

It is also important that medical teams understand how these issues can present differently among men and women. This different treatment could lead to poor outcomes that don’t aid the patient. 1 out 5 women feels that their healthcare provider ignored or dismissed their symptoms, according to an article published by DukeHealth.  Sometimes this dissimilar treatment can just be a result of old habits, rather than moral failings. Not all providers notice there is contrasting treatment, however, there can be no change without awareness.  This is why it is important to increase the knowledge base and educate those in the field about the issue.

One common example of gendered bias in health is cardiovascular disease. Since 1984, the actual mortality rate of heart attacks has been higher for women than men. But studies show that there is not a reason for women to die at higher rates due to cardiovascular issues. A study found in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that women that receive the same treatment as men for heart issues, also have the same odds for recovery. From this, we can infer that the increased danger for women is in the response to heart attacks, not the disease itself.

There is a common misconception that women aren’t as at risk for cardiovascular disease. This under-recognition of heart disease in women leads to less aggressive treatment and lower representation of women in clinical trials. Self-awareness in women and understanding the risk factors to pay attention to will result in better prevention of this life-threatening health problem.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. 299,578 women died in 2017 from the disease- which is about 1 in 5 female deaths. About 1 in 16 women that are 20 or older have coronary heart disease, which is a common type of heart disease experienced in females. Visit this site to know your risks and how to avoid those risks to live a healthy life against cardiovascular disease.

“Identifying when and how women may be at higher risk for heart failure after a heart attack can help providers develop more effective approaches for prevention,”

Justin A. Ezekowitz

Since there have been more clinical trials centered around male animals and male cells, there are just generally fewer studies that represent women. This leads to medical professionals looking for the obvious symptoms that are common in men, versus symptoms that are specific to women. Men and women do not always have the same symptoms for diseases.

Gender norms, roles, and inequality affect people’s health around the world. Linked, is a Q&A that examines the relationship between health and gender, from the World Health Organization. As well as reflect WHO’s ongoing work to address health barriers and advance equality in order to empower women in their own diversity to feel comfortable with their healthcare providers.

Since this issue is so widespread, patients, doctors, researchers, and other professionals need to check their own personal faults with bias. These views, whether subconscious or not, have a serious impact on health outcomes and how our health systems work. Worldwide there has always been bias against women. In 2020 a United Nation’s report found that close to 90% of people globally have some form of bias against women. Bias can be conscious or unconscious, which is why it can go undetected and be so dangerous.

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