There is a need for greater attention to be paid to the role of sex and gender in healthcare. That is what Professor of Gender in Primary and Transmural Care Sabine Oertelt-Prigione of Radboud university medical center states in a special online edition of EClinical Medicine, part of The Lancet, published in the run-up to International Women's Day. Scientific research shows that both sex and gender influence health behavior and impact disease development, having an effect on its diagnosis, treatment, and long-term effects as well.
Sex and gender-related medicine focuses on the role of sex (biological differences) and gender (sociocultural structure) in healthcare. Both sex and gender have an impact on access to and availability of healthcare. Over the past 20 to 30 years, more attention has been given to the role of sex and gender in healthcare, so we now know that the differences lead to different symptoms and diseases, with corresponding forms of development and progression. Although knowledge and methods for good research are on the rise, proper, systematic tools for analyzing gender in medicine are still lacking. It is therefore necessary to determine which aspects of gender we need to understand in order to improve people's health.
In this online publication several studies show how complex the reality is. Gender influences access to healthcare and also has an impact on the chance of survival. In fact, gender equality leads to a lower mortality rate among both women and men. In many countries, women are still at greater risk of violence, which affects their health and contraceptive options. Gender-based discrimination also leads to poorer mental health. Therefore, changes should be aimed at breaking down structural barriers, not just at changing individual behavior. We are seeing that more equality leads to better care for mothers, but also that it has a positive influence on the careers of female researchers in medical science.
Sabine Oertelt, associated with the Department of Primary Care and Community Care at Radboudumc: “As a society, we have to ask ourselves what we consider health to be. Is it just the absence of disease or is it more than that? Look at the definition from the World Health Organization WHO: ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.’ I strive for this broad definition for everyone. That is why it is essential to include sex and gender in our work in healthcare. It is time to make it a priority.”
Published in The Lancet EClinical Medicine.
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