Gender bias is a huge issue in the medical field. In fact, in the 1980s, when I was doing major studies on chronic diseases, typically men would be enrolled in the study, without a single woman.
While working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the mid-1980s, I tried to put a stop to this practice by starting to organize what eventually became known as the “Women’s Health Initiative,” to study all the major chronic diseases in women.
Of course, the National Institutes of “Health” is not actually organized around health, which was one problem.
Women are biologically, metabolically, and medically different from men — regardless of what politically correct ideologues would will. Plus, they experience diseases — such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, bone fractures, and osteoporosis — differently than men.
So — when I worked at the National Cancer Institute, I made the rounds to also recruit researchers and funding from the National Heart Institute and the National Aging Institute, so we could study holistic health in the whole woman. I also felt this unified approach would make the most of institutional research resources and funding for taxpayers.
In this case, it was not just the word “health” that was problematic, but the word “initiative.”
Apparently, I showed too much initiative trying to do the most for women’s health.
More accurately, it was a little too much initiative for my do-nothing bureaucratic bosses who preferred to sit on their hands, as they had for decades.
In disappointment, I went on to fill an executive physician position at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where showing some real initiative was part of my job description (something not unknown to the military, fortunately).
Those left behind at NIH fumbled around and eventually went ahead with the Women’s Health Initiative, which has yielded important results, 30 years later, as I regularly report. Working with Congress, outside the NIH I also helped establish the NIH Office of Women’s Health Research. But like their new Office for Complementary/Alternative Medicine, it turned out to more counter-productive window dressing at taxpayer expense.
In 1993, Congress finally ordered the NIH to include women in all clinical trails it funded. So, there have been some improvements. But it should all have been done a lot sooner.
Plus, gender bias still exists.
The FDA still doesn’t require drug and medical device manufacturers to use both men and women in studies to get products approval. This omission leads to problems when it comes to the therapeutic effects and toxicity (side effects) of drugs and treatments in women.
Ageism is the new sexism
In the March 2017 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, I reported how researchers don’t study cardiology drugs, treatments and procedures in the older people, the very population that must needs heart healthcare. So, if you’re an older women, the mainstream medical system has left you in double-trouble.
Gender bias works in reverse too.
For example, although men suffer one-third of all hip fractures, almost all the medical research on this condition has been done on women, since mainstream medical research sees osteoporosis, or brittle bones, as a “female condition.”
Further, as poor as the guidelines are for measuring bone mineral density in women, doctors are completely in the woods when it comes to men.
If you end up in the hands of an orthopedic surgeon for a hip fracture, it may not make any difference anyway, because these doctors don’t pay attention to the research, even when there is some.
If you go to a real doctor, make sure he or she understand the differences, and the limitations of recommending “standard” medical treatments (based on men) for women, especially older women. Don’t be afraid ask for studies and hand-outs specifically on and for women.
I will give you more details in the upcoming June 2017 Insiders’ Cures newsletter, so if you’re not already a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.