Giving Compass’ Take:
• Here are four ways that women can better advocate for their health when experiencing issues with doctors and other medical practitioners.
• How are women treated differently in hospitals and in medical practices? How can donors help address issues of maternal mortality and sexism in treatment?
• Read more about Black maternal mortality and what philanthropy can do.
Our methods for evaluating, diagnosing, and treating disease for both men and women are based on previous research performed on male bodies. But women are physiologically different from men on every level—and these differences can have major impacts on everything in medicine, from how drugs are prescribed, to how routine tests are performed, to how pain is assessed and treated, to how systemic disease is diagnosed.
Here’s an example. Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, but women have statistically poorer outcomes and higher mortality. Why? Because women’s symptoms are simply different from men’s. While men might experience left arm pain and chest heaviness (“typical” heart disease symptoms), women often present with only mild pain and discomfort, possibly combined with fatigue, shortness of breath, and a strong feeling that “something isn’t right.” Since women’s symptoms are not the symptoms that doctors typically associate with heart disease, their heart disease is 50 percent more likely to be initially misdiagnosed.
There are hundreds more examples like this one. It’s clear that there is work to do when it comes to unconscious biases in medicine—but, as women, how can we best advocate for our health and ensure that our concerns are heard and taken seriously?
- Be prepared. Your doctor may have gone through years of medical school, but that doesn’t mean they’re all-knowing. Research your conditions, your prescriptions, and how your prescriptions interact with each other. This way, you can have an informed conversation with your physician if something is wrong.
- Ask questions. Even after you do your research, you may still have questions. Don’t be afraid to ask them—especially gender-specific ones.
- Trust yourself. No one’s voice should take precedence over yours when it comes to your body and your health care.
- Make your voice heard. It’s important to advocate for yourself on an individual level, but you may be inspired to do even more.
Read the full article about women advocating for their own health by Carrie Kerpen at Forbes Africa.
If you are looking for more articles and resources for Public Health, take a look at these Giving Compass selections related to impact giving and Public Health.
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