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gender equality in health

We Need Gender Equality in Health As Well As Pay – Here’s Why

There has been much discussion about gender equality for pay. Now’s the time to spark the conversation about gender equality in health.

Healthcare doesn’t always work the same for everyone. From research and treatment options to access to services and programs, many women are overlooked and underserved because healthcare has traditionally not considered the impact of sex and gender differences. Research shows that women’s needs, including physiology, cultural challenges and life circumstances, are often not taken into consideration. This is now known as the ‘The Health Gap.’ And for women in marginalized and disadvantaged communities, the gap is even wider.

“The Health Gap is a very real threat to the well-being of women everywhere,” said Katherine Hay, President and Chief Executive Officer, Women’s College Hospital Foundation.

Women’s College Hospital (WCH), world leader in the health of women, has identified several gaps in the way many women receive treatment and access healthcare. Some key examples of gender equality in health affecting women include:


gender equality in healthHealthcare Research

Women have different risk factors for certain diseases, and may also respond differently to various treatments and medications. However, until the 1990s, there was no requirement to include women in clinical trials, which means that many prescription drugs and treatment protocols still used today have been disproportionally studied on men and not designed to meet women’s needs.

gender equality in health

Cardiac Health

Each year heart disease kills more women than men, but women continue to be under-represented in cardiovascular research, representing only 35 per cent of patients in heart disease research. Furthermore, research has shown that following a heart attack, women are 36 per cent less likely to enroll and participate in cardiac rehabilitation because it is not offered as an option to many women for a variety of reasons, including societal presumptions or cultural biases. WCH researchers also found that distance and transportation issues are significant barriers to women’s participation – of patients studied, 26 per cent listed these factors as specific challenges to starting cardiac rehabilitation.


gender equality in healthMental Health

Women experience depression twice as often as men and are three times more likely than men to experience barriers to accessing mental health care. Also, the prevalence of mental health issues during the reproductive life stages (such as menstrual cycle, pregnancy, postpartum and menopause) adds to the complexity of care and treatment for women. Yet, most mental health research and therapy is based on the male experience.

gender equality in health

Chronic Conditions

Women generally live longer than men and are more likely to suffer from multiple, co-occurring chronic conditions. The number of women aged 80 and older reporting two or more chronic conditions is twice as high as the number of older men. Women are also more likely to report severe and long-lasting pain, but are typically treated less aggressively than men. Doctors approach women’s pain as psychological or psychosocial and are more likely to refer women to a therapist rather than a pain clinic.

gender equality in health

Social Determinants of Health

Social determinants of health, including factors like income, employment status and housing, all influence a person’s risk for disease or injury and women are even more vulnerable to these affects. Women who live in low-income, marginalized and disadvantaged communities report higher instances of hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and substance use issues. Women in these communities also face stigmatization and significant barriers accessing health services and attending appointments because of cultural or social circumstances that make it more challenging for them to talk freely about their health conditions.

“The Health Gap significantly impacts women’s health and their quality of life. As a world leader in advocating for and advancing the health of women, Women’s College Hospital felt it was our responsibility to raise awareness of this important issue,” said Marilyn Emery, President and Chief Executive Officer, Women’s College Hospital. “With many health conditions, women present differently than men and require treatment and care that recognizes the differences between genders. This is often exacerbated by various societal factors that impact many women – family responsibilities, cultural biases or stigmatization – leading to additional barriers to accessing care and creating a Health Gap which must be addressed.”


An awareness campaign led by WCH has been launched to bring attention to gender equality in health and the Health Gap, in hopes to creating a world where there’s equal health care for all

gender equality in health

To learn more about gender equality in health and the #HealthGap, visit www.TheHealthGap.ca.

gender equality in health

Wife. Mom. Believer. Writer. Advocate.

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