Friday, 14 December 2018

Healthcare Differences Between Genders

There are biological, psychological and behavioral differences between genders that affect health. For example, women are more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis and men are more likely to have inguinal hernias. Men tend to lose weight faster initially but women catch up and burn more fat during exercise. Men keep more excess fat around their midline which is connected with cardiovascular risks whereas women naturally have more body fat and keep more of it in their legs or hips. Men are more likely to be aggressive and women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

Special feature by Paisley Hansen

But while these differences are widely known and accepted in the medical community, does the way we treat men and women reflect this knowledge? Even though men and women have different health needs, what kind of similarities and differences are there in healthcare itself between the genders?
Differences in Treatment

Regitz-Zagrosek 2012 shows that in Germany differences have been found between the genders in the causes, symptoms, treatment, and outcomes of cardiovascular conditions. Heavy exercise and work stress are more common causes for myocardial infarction for men (though the latter may be changing as more women work) and psychological factors are a more significant cause for women. Even though young men have more hypertension than young women, women have a greater risk of heart problems from hypertension. Sometimes men and women are treated differently. For example, the diagnosis for women have fewer guidelines and treatment is less invasive, though Regitz-Zagrosek mentions that this is because of the habits of physicians. As far as outcomes go, women have a higher rate of mortality after a heart attack or bypass surgery than men and men have higher risk of ischemic death.

Besides treatment and outcomes, there may be many other differences in healthcare including cost and efficiency. A study in Poland found that healthcare was biased in favor of men (Kyszczarz 2017) and Bertakis et al 2000 showed that women have higher health costs in everything but hospitalizations. (Bertakis 2009 also showed a difference in the way male and female doctors practice medicine, which also can have differing outcomes.)

Other prescription drugs or health programs may be marketed differently to men and women such as birth control or a weight loss program for men or women.

Behavioral Relationships With Healthcare Between Genders

Women tend to think about health more and do more about it. They are more likely to go to a doctor’s office or try a new healthy diet than men are.

Hart 2014 points out that men and women’s healthcare could be affected by the way they act when they come to a doctor’s office. For one thing, men may not be as good at talking about their health issues because it may be perceived as an unmasculine weakness to do so. Women go to the doctor more often. It is possible they are better at it because they have more experience explaining their ailments or because they have a better understanding of how important it is to give detailed explanations about these problems. Whether it is nature or nurture that causes these differences, healthcare providers need to be aware of them in order to create strategies to best help their patients.

Further Research

It is well known that women have made greater efforts recently in calling attention to and protesting gender inequalities in healthcare, specifically in reproductive services. But a health treatment that considers sex and gender is not a feminist based action. It is meant to be more efficient for everyone. There is much more that needs to be done in terms of changing culture and researching these differences to understand how we can utilize that knowledge to better help everyone.

BMJ (2001) concludes that policies should be sensitive to the needs of both, and Regitz-Zagrosek (2012) mentions areas that need to be improved for both genders. She said that depression and osteoporosis are thought to be women’s conditions which could mean that they are underdiagnosed (or under researched) in men. Women are under-represented in early and clinical cardiovascular trials. Furthermore, more tests are done on male mice who are far more affected by treatment than females, even though outcomes between the two can be very different. If we are going to have equal healthcare for men and women, it must extend beyond the current campaigning for women’s reproductive rights. We also need more research about gender specific needs and outcomes, and how to treat them fairly.

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