Why Women Are Diagnosed with Diseases Later Than Men

Even though the Danish have a single-payer health plan, are there takeaways from this study for women’s healthcare in the United States?


Even though the Danish have a single-payer health plan, are there takeaways from this study for women’s healthcare in the United States?

We posed that question to , PhD, associate director for the Women’s Health Research Institute at Northwestern University in Illinois.

“This study is unique in that it captures health information from the entire Danish population. Due to privatized healthcare in the United States, it is nearly impossible to conduct a study like this on the same scale,” she told Healthline.

“That being said, I anticipate that we would also find that women experience a delay-to-diagnosis in many clinical areas and that this gap would likely extend further for women of color,” she added.

Woitowich said we already know there are gender disparities in healthcare in this country.

“Historically, it was assumed that there were no differences between men and women outside of the reproductive tract, when in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” she said.

“Women and men experience many diseases and disorders differently. Both sex and gender can have a significant impact on our health and well-being,” she explained. “This is still an issue that is often overlooked, even within medical education and training.”

Woitowich says her organization along with others continue trying to raise awareness about gender bias and the influences of sex and gender in healthcare.

She said significant work is being done on the research front starting at the basic levels.

“The majority of biomedical research is conducted in male cells and animals. By studying only one sex, we limit the ability to discover new therapies and treatments for both men and women,” she said. “We need to study the influences of sex at all levels, from the earliest stages at the lab bench through to the patient bedside.”

Another organization, (SWHR), began nearly three decades ago battling to get women involved in clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health.

Back then, women were excluded.

, PhD, president and chief executive officer of SWHR, told Healthline the group’s advocacy has finally paid off.

“Some progress is being made. I’m impatient at the rate of change,” she said. “But, yes, I’m absolutely encouraged.”

Still, there are challenges.

“The body of research in cardiology on sex differences is robust and well-known to clinicians and practitioners,” she said. “But when women have heart attacks and go to the ER, they’re often dismissed rather than receiving a full cardiovascular work up.”

“Why is that? I think it goes to stigma, and under appreciating women’s health or dismissing women’s health,” she added. “So when we ask why are there these disparities, I think it’s because we’ve ignored women’s health for so long.”

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