The Gender Health Gap: Why Your Body Should Matter in Medicine
On June 10, 1993, Congress passed the NIH Revitalization Act to establish guidelines for including women and people of color in clinical research. Until 30 years ago, women of childbearing potential were excluded from the early phases of many clinical trials.
Researchers largely avoided the hormone cycle of the female body altogether, so studies even steered clear of studying female mice. As we’re writing this today, the gender health gap still leaves women behind in comprehensive medical care — even more so for women of color. On average, women are diagnosed 4 years after men regarding diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
The gender health gap is a personal issue
Though it’s easy to get wrapped up in statistics, thousands of women die each year due to a lack of knowledge about the female body. Less than 100 years ago, menstruation was thought to regulate our emotions, and throughout history, periods were associated with witchcraft. In certain cultures today, girls and women are excluded from society because periods are thought to be impure.
Many disorders that are female-specific, like endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), menopause, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), primarily go untreated because we don’t have research to understand why they occur entirely. But women don’t just face misdiagnosis and insufficient care for reproductive health.
Several studies have uncovered that when women experience heart attacks, they are 50% less likely as men to receive the recommended medical treatment. Women are far more likely to die of misdiagnosed or untreated heart attacks. In this space of modern medicine, we are still finding health inequalities between genders.
It may take up to seven times longer for women to be diagnosed with diseases like cancer, dementia, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain. This is largely because women are perceived as emotional, and our symptoms are considered psychological more than physical.
Women experience health issues differently than men
Male bodies have defined women’s healthcare since the advent of research and medicine. As women, we know we experience health issues much differently than men. Yet women often under-report or ignore serious symptoms.
This is partly because much of the information women have access doesn’t align with their experiences — and also due to feeling like they aren’t being taken seriously when they seek support from the medical community.
Healthcare providers are a compassionate community who wants to support and advocate for women’s health. However, their work has been mastered around the male body and male experience. Medicine as a whole needs a solid framework built on guidelines, regulations and structure. Providers simply base their practice on the information they have access to, but it comes at a heavy price for women’s health.
How Femtech is helping to change the medical landscape
The word Femtech was coined in 20216 by Ida Tin, the founder of Clue, a period tracking app. FemTech provides a wide range of resources for improving healthcare for women across a number of female-specific conditions. It collects data, provides resources, and connects women to their healthcare providers via technology.
The Femtech sector aims to create public awareness, increase understanding of female issues, and provide accessibility to women globally. At Joylux, we’re proud to be a part of the Femtech space as we work to bring awareness to gender inequality in healthcare. Our intimate wellness device and accompanying tracking app are changing how women understand female-centric health issues.
Our goal is to enable women to care for their bodies during different stages of their lives. We also want to support early diagnosis and intervention of female-related issues, improve communication between patients and providers, and address the stigma around women’s bodies.