Gender in Health Care: Analyzing the Issues Women Face in Receiving Adequate Healthcare


The fact that men and women are affected by diseases differently is noticeable at the household level, and doctors are well aware of it. But a new direction – gender medicine – began to develop quite recently. Despite the external equality of two genders, there are insurmountable differences of purely physical nature.  The success of the treatment depends on the extent to which doctors pay attention to them.

Gender situation in medicine

It is widely known that women get sick more often, but men die earlier. This trend reflects the general phenomena occurring in modern industrial society. It is the result of social, ecological and physical processes and the way of life of people at the individual and community levels.

Due to the fact that the sex of an individual is a fundamentally important part of social life, female and male experience is different both in the life of a healthy person and in illness. Unfortunately, in the modern medicine, only obstetrician-gynecologists and andrologists note the differences between a woman and a man in the issues of healthcare. Otolaryngologists, dermatologists, hematologists, even therapists, surgeons, cardiologists, oncologists, traumatologists, etc. approach patients using a single standard that does not contain a gender specification. The concept of “norm” in medicine is one thing, for both men and women.

Feminists argue that medical standards were created on the basis of the body characteristics of a white middle-class man. In this case, therapists did not consider the laws of the functioning of the female body while discussing the causes of diseases or prescribing various medications.

Recently, the situation in Western medicine began to change: women are included in clinical research, female health is the subject of special training courses, gender-based medicine is being formed. But it is still not strong enough. Perhaps, this is due to the structure of healthcare itself. Most key positions (rectors of medical universities, chief doctors of hospitals and leading research centers) continue to be occupied by men.

Most of the female doctors are engaged in the provision of first aid to patients. At the same time, the style of communication is more egalitarian and is aimed at solving the patient’s psychological problems. Ladies develop patient-oriented styles of professional behavior, which can be useful for male doctors.

The main contradiction is clearly evident: medical professions are mostly occupied by women, but as a rule, great careers in medicine are made by men. Perhaps, changing the situation would benefit healthcare.

Differences between female and male organisms

A survey was conducted on the streets. Passers-by were asked whether there is a difference between how men and women get ill. The answer of one of the respondents is demonstrative: “When men catch a cold, they flaunt themselves defiantly, sit in a corner and are already not capable of anything.” In other words, the difference is not in physiology, but in stereotypes of behavior. Women are more patient, used to overcome weakness, coping with household chores (however, more and more often, household duties are divided equally). It is believed that women have a stronger immune system. Doctors often support this point of view.

Experts in gender medicine claim that this is a mistaken opinion. For example, a female kidney contains fewer nephrons (the functional units responsible for filtering urine) than the male kidney. Probably, that is why the kidneys of female donors are much less effective for male recipients, and the kidneys of male donors are worse for female recipients.

Differences between male and female organisms are related not only to muscle mass, but also to water content, fat distribution and, in general, response to injected substances. All this leads to the fact that many drugs stay much longer in the female body, which means that the dosage should be less for women.

In the production of standardized prostheses, until recently, such simple facts as that men and women have different pelvic forms or that female joints are much more mobile than male were not considered.

Men really suffer from cold heavier than women. They also die from pneumonia and influenza more often. Women are more likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Gender differences in the human body have long been neglected. This is largely due to the force of habit. Clinical trials of drugs were traditionally aimed at an average man weighing 75 kg. However, there are more serious reasons. In the 1960s, the world was shocked by the scandal associated with thalidomide. It was given to pregnant women as a sedative remedy. It turned out that the drug had a strong teratogenic effect, which resulted in the emergence of many children with severe deformities.

Since then, women are extremely reluctantly attracted to clinical trials of new medicines. Experimenters are afraid of adverse reactions in case of a possible pregnancy. Therefore, until recently, the accompanying instructions to most medications did not contain an indication of the difference in dosage for men and women.

But now, in some educational institutions, the problems of gender-specific effects of medicines are included in the curriculum of students-pharmacists. Ideally, the development of gender medicine should result in a strictly individual therapy for each patient. However, we are still far away from it.

This sphere should be duly studied by the scientific community, researched by experienced practitioners and theorists, students of medical universities. If you have to write an academic paper on gender medicine, take the task very seriously. It even will not be superfluous to turn to a specialized service for coursework help, because this area needs serious, competent developments.


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