WOMEN AND DISPARITIES IN CARE
Modern medical research has historically centered on men's health, by tradition and by statute. Only in the past 25 years – with the lifting of a law that barred most women from participating in clinical trials and another requiring their inclusion – have researchers begun to systematically consider how women's health outcomes differ from men's.
One 39-year-old woman quoted in the report recalled: “One of the GPs I saw actually made fun of me, saying ‘what did I think my headaches were, a brain tumour?’ I had to request a referral to neurology. I went back repeated times to be given antidepressants, sleep charts, analgesia, etc. No one took me seriously.”
“Well, you look like you’re doing great,” my primary care physician cheerfully informed me.
I stared at her from the examination table in disbelief. I had just told her that I wasn’t enjoying being with my children and was having trouble doing what needed to be done at work and at home. As a health journalist, I had interviewed dozens of physicians and psychologists. I knew that being unable to live one’s life was the big red flag signaling it was time to get help.
When Katy Seppi first got her period, the pain was so debilitating that she frequently missed school.
“I also had really heavy periods,” she says. “In high school, my mom taught me to use two super tampons at once so I could go to school. My dad once had to take me to the hospital because I was having such bad pelvic pain on one side. But the ER doctor just said that I was probably ovulating and it was normal to have more pain with ovulation.”
“My wife,” I said. “I’ve never seen her like this. Something’s wrong, you have to see her.” She’ll have to wait her turn,” she said. Other nurses’ reactions ranged from dismissive to condescending. “You’re just feeling a little pain, honey,” one of them told Rachel, all but patting her head.
To return to the issue of chronic pain, 70% of the people it impacts are women. And yet, 80% of pain studies are conducted on male mice or human men.
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