Women’s Health and Gender-Specific Medicine
Until the start of the 21st century, women’s health in the U.S. was primarily defined as breast and reproductive health. This has been know by many as “bikini medicine.”
In 1985, the Public Health Service in their Report of the Taskforce on Women’s Health urged going beyond that definition. During the past decade a new and more comprehensive understanding of women’s health has emerged based on research findings.
Given the historical tendency to study only men and apply these findings to women, the science of gender-specific medicine has not only the implication, but the intention of reconfiguring healthcare for both men and women. The new way of understanding and providing healthcare in the 21st Century is know as Gender-Specific Medicine.
“Sex does matter. It matters in ways that we did not expect. Undoubtedly, it also matters in ways that we have not begun to imagine.” (1)
Physical and psychological differences between women and men produce:
- Different diseases
- Different symptoms for the same diseases
- Different information needs
Why Improving Women’s Healthcare is Important for Healthcare Providers
- Women comprise the majority of all healthcare visits. (2)
- Women influence 80% of healthcare decisions for their immediate and extended families. (3)
- With the aging population, women are more frequently called upon to act as caregivers for aging family and friends. (4,5)
- Often suffering from “time famine,” women have insufficient time, focus, or other resources to care for themselves.
- Delaying medical attention can result in unnecessary progression of an illness. (6)
- Research indicates that healthcare providers and patients alike are eager to embrace gender-specific medicine, however:
- Sufficient information has yet to reach healthcare professionals and women.
- Healthcare professionals at present are inadequately trained to communicate effectively with female patients.
- Innovative strategies and approaches to educate both providers and women concerning the latest research have yet to be developed or implemented. (7)
- These deficiencies have led to an information gap that leaves both healthcare professionals and women lacking information about how to incorporate gender-specific medical findings into their practices and personal healthcare routines.
Growing Recognition of the Importance of Gender-Specific Medicine
- Federal and private organizations have made gender-specific medicine a priority:
- The FDA and NIH urge commercially and federally funded research to include women in clinical trials.
- Increased federal funding of women’s health studies include the Women’s Health Initiative.
- The World Health Organization formed the Department of Gender, Women and Health.
- The U.S. Office of Women’s Health established national Centers of Excellence in Women’s Health at teaching hospitals.
- One World Congress in Gender-Specific Medicine and six U.S. Conferences have been held.
- Professional journals and popular media have increased efforts to cover gender-specific medicine.
Due to a lack of awareness of gender-specific medicine, the information gap places women at increased risk. There is a tremendous opportunities for organizations and volunteers to do their part to help full this void. Is there something you can do?
Top Content Gaps to Fill
- Disease Education to improve disease awareness through engaging video content
- Cardiovascular Health
- Mental Health
- Bone Health
- Respiratory Health
- Free Disease Screening Events
- Social & Community Events
- Institute of Medicine. 2001. Exploring the biological contributions to human health. Does sex matter?
- Hing, Esther, Donald K. Cherry, and David A. Woodwell. “National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2004 Summary.” Advance Data from Vital and
Health Statistics. No. 374. Centers for Disease Control. June 23, 2006. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad374.pdf. Accessed January 22,
- Salganicoff, Alina, Usha R. Ranji, and Roberta Wyn. “Women and Healthcare: A National Profile.” Kaiser Family Foundation. July 2005. Available at
Accessed January 22, 2007: V, 40.
- National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. “Caregiving in the US.” April 2004. Available at http://www.caregiving.org/data/04finalreport.pdf.
Accessed January 22, 2007: 54.
- U.S. Census Bureau. “Oldest Baby Boomers Turn 60!” Facts for Features Special Edition. Press Release. January 3, 2006. Available at
http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/006105.html. Accessed January 22, 2007.
- Vuckovic, Nancy. “Effect of ‘Time Famine’ on Women’s Self-Care and Household Health Care.” The Permanente Journal. 2000; 4(3): 13-20.
- Lethbridge-Çejku M, Schiller JS, Bernadel L. 2004. Summary health statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2002. National Center
for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics 10(222).
- Johnson, Paula A, Manson, JoAnn E., “How to Make Sure the Beat Goes On: Protecting a Woman’s Heart”, Circulation, 2005; 111;e28-e33.