Dig in the “gender inequality” in medical research concerning experiment animals

Both in lecture and discussion group, we talked about the preference on choosing male experiment animals over female ones in drug tests. We were surprised that not until 4 months ago that female labradors were introduced in cardiovascular medicine research as experiment objects. I suppose, first of all, science is perceived as relatively objective and fair (though the male dominance of researchers exists in many fields). Such sex preference seems so “outdated”. Second of all, we suspect and actually assume that only using the male objects will lead to disadvantages for female patients. We suspected that because the drugs produced will apply to male bodies more efficiently than female. But I think this conclusion seems too arbitrary.

First of all, the preference on experiment animals of a certain sex is determined by the contents of the experiment. Most of time, for the convenience of conducting the experiment. Sometimes scientists prefer male animals because pregnancy will make the experiment more difficult. For another, female animals are more easily influenced by hormonal levels, which disrupts the experiment results.  There are tons of examples where female animals are preferred or only used or where equal quantities of male and female objects are required. For instance, in an experiment on the treatment for osteoporosis, there two common methods of causing osteoporosis artificially. The medicine injection method is very difficult and expensive while the other is the removal of ovaries, which is much easier. As a result, only female rats were used in this medical research project. 

Some people can argue that we should not sacrifice equality for the sake of convenience. Well, it is not the case. Here scientists are trying their best to control the variables so they can test the elements they focus on, especially during the early stage of research and development. It seems very outdated and naive to me that insisting on absolute “gender equality” on every stage of the experiment. I support the equal treatments on men and women during the stage of clinical trials as it is important to ensure gender equality for the patients. All in all, the judgment on “gender inequality” in medical research depends on the details of the experiments. We should not jump to the conclusions too quickly. I am very sorry that I didn’t find the original articles about the no use of female labradors until 4 months ago. All complement and comments are welcomed.

Gender Gap in Healthcare: Heart Care and Reasons for the Difference in Life Expectancy

As we learned last week, the effects of both gender and socioeconomic status have an effect on the life expectancy and health of the individual in question. These both provide the person with opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have if they were of a lower socioeconomic status or of an opposing genders. A recent study shows however that there might be this inequality in the hospitals themselves.

In this article, it states that women are less likely to get warned of the risk for heart disease by their doctors, due to the doctors understanding it as a “men’s” disease. Because of this, men are more likely to get treated for heart disease due to the doctor telling them beforehand and giving them prevention methods. As a result, 4.5% of women below 60 died in hospitals compared to the 3% of men below 60 due to heart diseases.

This raises serious issues in regards to both research and treatment. In regards to treatment, whenever a person is shown to have symptoms of anything, be it heart disease or any other disease, it is the job of the doctor to inform the patient and not act under the guise of it being a specific gender disease. It is not the patient who is at fault in situations like these, as he/she would not know they have anything wrong with them until it is too late, but rather it is the fault of the doctor. In regards to research, the very last line of the article pointed out a clear fault that we have been talking about for quite a while last week: “Officials should also enforce existing policies that require women to be included in research instead of men only, she added.”. The reasons why doctors would think this way would be because not enough research is done on female subjects so only data involving males is obtained. If we are to prevent diseases in general, we have to have research to understand both the female and male anatomy and their susceptibility to diseases or we won’t understand the entire picture of said condition.



Social Norm Created by Health Care

In the article, “Tall Girls: The Social Shaping of a Medical Therapy” by Joyce M. Lee, MD, MPH; Joel D. Howell, MD, PhD, the authors discuss how Estrogen therapy came about. Prior to reading this article I had never heard of Estrogen therapy being used to stunt the growth of a girl who was expected to be taller then what a medical professional deemed normal. This was very surprising to me because this seems like a very cosmetic procedure, and there was a lot of time and research put into it. In the article it states that this was such a pressing issue at the time because, “Some girls feel so embarrassed with boys shorter than themselves that they believe that their choice of male companions, both in the immediate future and as adults, will be seriously jeopardized.” Because the 1950s and 60s were a time when women worked mostly as stay at home moms, it was necessary for them to be attractive to find a male companion. I believe that part of the issue of women feeling unattractive because of their “abnormal” height is because of the social norm that was set in stone by medical professionals. Once someone with as high of ranking as a medical professional or scientist declares that being too tall is an issue then society will agree. My question is, did the medical professionals responsible for the use of Estrogen therapy to stunt growth, create the social norm of tall women being less attractive?

Gender Creates Inequalities

In discussion, we talked more about the nature of gender inequalities and the disparities among health outcomes. I thought it was very interesting to see how social institutions, stigmas,  and our history, affect health outcomes. I once read an article that discussed children born to mothers who were in New York City during the time of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Research found that these children were more prone to developing anxiety since their mothers experienced severe stress while they were in the womb. Women seem to have more health problems than men, is this disparity directly related to the social oppression seen in women’s history?

The Gender Gap and Its Social and Biological Determinants

Patricia Rieker et al. in “Understanding Gender and Health – Old Patterns, New Trends and Future Directions” discuss the gender gap in longevity and overall health in the United States and at the global level. Women have shown higher life expectancy than men, and this pattern is consistent across different countries. Although clinical research had previously focused on solely biological mechanisms to explain the health disparities between the sexes, Rieker emphasizes that the size of this gender gap is a result of complex interactions between social and biological factors.  Rieker and Bird propose a multilevel constrained choice model to explain how individual choice in addition to actions performed at the family, work, community, and government levels shape the differing health outcomes of males and females.  I found it very interesting that men, who are normally thought to have more privilege in today’s society, actually have a short life expectancy than women. They discussed how this intriguing paradox could be a result of social and biological determinants. For example, men may feel social pressures to fulfill masculine identities and engage in more risky behaviors than do women, which leads to negative health outcomes. However, biological mechanisms come into play as men may be more genetically apt to abuse alcohol and other deleterious substances. The discussion provides for a new area of health consciousness; a better understanding of the differing constraints experienced by the genders can help propel prevention and interventions necessary for improving overall population health.

Continue reading “The Gender Gap and Its Social and Biological Determinants”

Gender Inequality – in the form of synthetic estrogen?

Women have been fighting for gender equality since the beginning of time, and indeed we’ve come a long way – but the battle is surely not over yet. We still see inequality with regards to income, job positions, household positions, etc, and for the latter part of the 20th century, we saw gender inequality in the form of estrogen therapy. In the article “Tall Girls: The Social Shaping of a Medical Therapy” by Lee et al., they explore the popularity of estrogen therapy for tall girls, and explain how social norms perpetuated this idea that tall girls were, basically, too tall. In a study described in the article, these conclusions were stated: “men are almost always taller than women among lovers and married couples by the fact that “most men do not feel attracted to taller women. In this study, desirable women were almost never described as tall and attractive men were almost never described as short. (Lee et al., par.13). So because of this general idea that tall women were inadequate for men, estrogen therapy was highly utilized in the latter part of the 20th century.

Although it is true that this stereotype has declined, along with estrogen therapy in general, it still exists and tall women find themselves in this perpetuating stereotype – men just can’t be with tall women. And to replace the once popular estrogen therapy, short men now find themselves increasingly utilizing growth hormones in order to combat the stigma placed among short men. Is the popularity of estrogen therapy and GH therapy perpetuating the negative connotations associated with tall women and short men, and encouraging gender inequality and discrimination? Is getting rid of these synthetic therapies the next big step we need to take in order to achieve gender equality?

Solution to Gender Gap in Health?

In Rieker and Bird’s article, they explain the gender gap in health and mortality and the causes for this gap that occur in everyday life. Researchers have shown that most women in the world (except for the women in poorer countries) have the longevity advantage over men; however, they later explain that women are more susceptible to bad health choices such as skipping a meal to take care of family, or, if they are smokers, smoking more after a long day. They are also biologically bound to deal with stressors like pregnancies. How is it that women are still able to maintain a longevity advantage over men?

When thinking about all the different daily stressors that affect both men and women’s lives, is it even possible to fix population health and reduce the disparities between the genders? I feel like the decision-making process for these health choices are so deeply rooted in our daily routines that we would have to change our whole nature to be able to fix it. They say that in terms of priorities for parents with families paid work would be considered the first shift, then caring for family needs the second, and then self-care would be the third. These priorities can’t be helped because without money from working, the parents cannot pay for family care. And out of human nature as parents, of course they would take care of their family first before doing things like exercise or other healthy activities. So what could we actually do to change some fundamental parts of our lives in order to improve population health?

The contrast in health and health insurance for different races and genders

In the article “Understanding Gender and Health”, the author compares the health of men and women. Women on average live longer than men, but they also have different social roles and community actions than men. Rieker looks at the differing social factors between men and women to try and explain the difference in health, without just considering biological reasons. In lecture we have been discussing health differences for people of different races and ethnicities. There is a shocking difference in life expectancy, infant mortality rate, and disease between genders and races. We learned in our last unit that health insurance plans are different for men and women for both cost and coverage. However, health insurance is not tailored to a certain race like it is to a certain gender. Looking at the statistical differences between African Americans and Caucasians for example, African Americans seem to have a higher likelihood of developing a serious disease than Caucasians do because of social factors. How do we create a health care system that is applicable to everyone and not just the statistical averages across all races and genders? Also, I’m curious if private insurance companies (before the ACA prohibited cherrypicking) were able to deny people from purchasing insurance if they were of a certain socioeconomic status or race. Knowing how selective insurance companies have been, it seems as if they might have justified not covering a certain person because of his or her race or socioeconomic status based on the statistical evidence.

Should we consider gender gap in making social policy

Gender is a key social factor which affects the outcomes of one’s health. From the article Understanding Gender and Health, the authors pointed out gender gap as a way to measure genders effect on life-expectances. The gender gap is essentially a comparison in life- expectancy between men and women. For many countries the gender gap is favorable to females, showing that women tend to have longer lives than men. This may be attributed to biological differences or socio-economical differences between the genders, although not enough is known to determine how much each contribute to gender gaps.

My question is whether we should consider gender gaps as a measure of a nation’s healthcare and be used as a factor in considering social policies affecting healthcare. As it seems somewhat of a worldwide trend for women to outlive males, should policies in healthcare maintain a gender gap or should they attempt to lessen the difference in life-expectancy? Essentially this question asks that, if women generally have less mortality rates than men, should the gender gap be used to determine the individual health of each gender and be a matter of social policy.

Masculinity a large playing factor in today’s society?

It is undeniable that compared to the past, society has moved past stereotypes and gender roles. Still, many of us feel obligated to act a certain way. For example, the likelihood of seeing a girl crying in public is probably much higher than a guy doing the same. In class, we’ve covered race and social status as players in a person’s health and life span. In Bird’s and Rieker’s article, they talk about the role gender plays.

One topic in the article is depressive disorder. Surveys show women’s rates of depression compared to men’s is 50-100% higher. Granted, this can be due to multiple factors, including men being less likely to go get help, and their tendency to cope on their own. This connects to higher substance abuse rates (covered also in the article) for men than women.

The conservative view of masculinity undeniably still exists. At what point can women and men be equal and not be judged as being “weak” ?