Missing women's health data
There are many areas where women’s health data has historically been under-represented or missed. These include:
Historically, women have been significantly underrepresented both as researchers and participants in clinical trials. In fact, as early as 1977, the FDA prohibited women of child-bearing potential from participating in early phase clinical trials. While there has been some progress since then, with an average inclusion rate of 42% for women in clinical trials, it is clear that women still face under-representation in this crucial area of research.
Many medical conditions affect women and men differently, but the focus on symptoms and awareness campaigns has often been centred around males. For instance, common conditions like heart attacks and strokes have predominantly emphasised male symptoms, leaving women at a disadvantage when it comes to recognising and seeking timely medical attention for their specific symptoms.
Gender disparities in medication
Women have been found to be 50-75% more prone to experiencing adverse drug reactions compared to men. Initially, this difference was attributed to variances in body weight, leading to recommendations of lower doses for women. However, it has become evident that the root cause lies in the fact that much of the research was primarily conducted on male subjects, leading to a lack of understanding about the unique responses and interactions women may have with medications.
Neglected conditions and diagnosis
Gynaecology, the field that focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions of the female reproductive system, has often been overlooked and undervalued. A prime example is endometriosis, a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus. It affects up to 10% of women between the ages of 25 and 40, yet the average diagnosis time is a staggering 7 years. This prolonged delay in diagnosis and treatment highlights the historical neglect of gynaecological conditions, leading to unnecessary suffering and reduced quality of life for countless women.