IN THIS BLOG POST …
- Every cell has a gender.
- The majority of medical science discovered over the past half a century has been conducted on men, impacting woman’s health.
- Both the NIH and FDA recently announced intentions to draft new policies and guidelines aimed at incorporating sex differences in research and regulation.
- We will strive to reference research that differentiates between men and women.
Recognize that gender differences can impact outcomes and the next time you experience a medical issue ask your medical provider if the medical issue and treatment is difference in men than it is in women.
It was once believed that men and women were alike in every way with the exception of their reproductive organs and sex hormones. However, our understanding today has changed.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) states that every cell has a sex. This implies that men and women are different down to the cellular level. As a result a man and woman’s body show symptoms of diseases differently as well as responds to medication differently. For instance, women are 70% more likely to experience depression in their lifetime compared to men. Researchers have discovered that there are differences in the area of brain in men and women that are connected with mood. Women are also more likely to die of heart disease in the first year of diagnosis. Medical researchers have found that the typical disease in a woman looks different (and is harder to identify) than the typical disease in a man. Researchers have also discovered different genetic mutations of certain drugs in men than in women. In fact, 80% of drugs withdrawn from the market are done so because of side effects on women. Yet despite this, the vast majority of medical science discovered over the past half a century has been conducted on men.
How did this happen?
After World War II guidelines were put into place to protect men and women from medical research without informed consent. At the time there was a general desire to protect women of child bearing years from entering into any medical research that could harm a fetus. Because it was believed men and women were alike with the exception of their reproductive organs and sex hormones, it was decided to conduct the research on men and apply it to women. And by conducting the research on men also solved another potential problem…researchers did not need to be concerned about females fluctuating hormones disrupting clean data.
So the research was conducted on men, and it stayed this way until 1980’s when the concept was challenged by policy makers and the medical community.
In 1993 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Revitalization Act was signed into law. This law mandated that women and minorities be included in clinical trails funded by the NIH. As a result today there is more data on women’s health. Sadly, most of the analysis published doesn’t differentiate between men and women. This means that although women are included in clinical trials, little is known as to the gender impact on the study. It has been a major lost opportunity and a problem that has impacted both men and women’s health.
Thankfully due to work by the Sex and Gender Women’s Health Collaborative and other organizations, more attention has been given to this issue. And there is a slowly growing body of research on women’s health. But a lot more work still needs to be done.
Earlier this year, both the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced intentions to draft new policies and guidelines aimed at incorporating sex differences in medical research and regulation.
How does this impact our work?
We recognize that gender differences can impact outcomes. And in our upcoming blog posts we aim to reference, whenever possible, research that differentiates men and women. Where no research is available we will try our best to find other credible sources and references on discoveries drawn from “grassroots” experiences.
health iQ tip(s): Recognize that gender differences can impact outcomes and the next time you experience a medical issue ask your medical provider if the medical issue and treatment is different in men than it is in women.
Sources for this blog post include: