It’s time to shift the focus of research from ‘bikini medicine’ to what really affects women – ScienceDaily
Research on women’s health remains disproportionately focused on the childbearing years – especially pregnancy – with few articles on the leading causes of illness and death in women, a new study has found.
Despite growing awareness of the differences in how women experience medical conditions and the impact this can have on diagnosis and treatment, this research gap has widened over the past decade. found the researchers.
Lead author Laura Hallam of the George Institute for Global Health said the focus on so-called “bikini medicine” stemmed from the misguided belief that women’s health differs from men’s only in the parts of the body that a bikini would cover.
“Historically, women’s health research has focused on reproductive health. However, non-communicable diseases are now the leading cause of death and disability among women in most countries, especially low- and middle-income countries,” she said.
“Sex and gender biases in research and health care can lead to poorer health outcomes for women, especially in conditions not recognized as women’s health issues.”
George Institute researchers analyzed the primary health content of articles published in six women’s health journals and five major general medical journals in 2010 and 2020, categorizing the main topics in the medical field and the stage of study life. They then compared these results with the leading causes of disease in women according to the well-established Global Burden of Disease study.
They found that in 2010 just over a third (36%) of women’s health content in both sets of journals focused on reproductive health, and by 2020 that figure had risen to just under half (49 and 47% for each type of journal). respectively).
The reverse was true for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with NCD content decreasing over this period in both types of journals.
In the two years combined, cancer was by far the most covered NCD topic in women’s health journals at just over 40%, followed by mental illness and addiction at 22%. Cardiovascular disease accounted for just over 15% of NCD articles.
In general medical journals, just over half (51.5%) of NCD topics in women’s health were about cancer, followed by nerve and nervous system disorders (9.7%) , with cardiovascular disease being at the bottom of the scale with mental illness. , substance abuse, and muscle and bone health (all 7.5%).
“Overall, we found that many diseases that actually contribute to poor health and significant death among women, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and chronic lung disease, were poorly covered in women’s health publications,” Hallam said.
“Additionally, when we categorized the articles by a woman’s life stage, we found that most were about pregnancy or the childbearing years, with very few articles about menopause,” she added.
“While women’s life expectancies are generally longer than men’s, women have fewer healthier years and high rates of disability in old age, so it is important to look at the health and well-being throughout life and studying diseases that are more common in old age, this could have a greater impact on women.”
The researchers found very few articles that focused on sex- and/or gender-based analysis, which reinforces the need to integrate it more systematically into medical and health research to better understand how men and women experience the disease differently.
“Our study shows that there is much work to be done by journals, funders and researchers to broaden the understanding of women’s health, so that women of all ages are appropriately and effectively served by scientific research and the resulting health benefits,” Ms Hallam said.