May is Women’s Healthcare Month, and I am writing this post in June. I am a man. The guy who helps me put together the calendar for this blog is a man as well. We are two men working together to create a blog post for Women’s Healthcare Month. We are a metaphor for modern society’s view of women’s healthcare: obtuse and a month late.
The funding for women’s healthcare research, never lavish in the past, continues to be marginalized. It was only in 2019 that the National Institutes of Health began classifying women’s health as a research category. Before that, NIH judged its progress in women’s health research by the percentage of women enrolled as research subjects.
Research Money for Women’s Healthcare
In 2019, research categories that NIH funded more lavishly than women’s healthcare included genetics, neurosciences, biotechnology, bioengineering, pediatrics, and aging. They are all worthy fields, and research in them will benefit all of us eventually.
But there are fairly urgent problems that need attention now. According to the Women’s Health Research Collaborative, “Over half of marathoners surveyed had symptoms of HMB [heavy menstrual bleeding], 1/3 had history of anemia and just over 20% ever sought medical advice.” This caught my eye because it involves marathoners. But I am most concerned about the 80% of women who don’t seek medical advice. As a father, I hate to think our culture raises girls and women to feel they need to suffer health problems like HMB in silence.
A Structural Barrier
There are probably lots of reasons that women’s healthcare research is marginalized. But I suspect one big one is that women are likely underrepresented on the NIH peer review panels that evaluate applications for research grants. The situation has improved in the past couple decades, but currently only about 34% of scientists are women. I am certain the percentage gets smaller as it moves up the ranks. If NIH is drawing its peer review panels from the ranks of senior scientists, women aren’t going to have realistic representation.
I don’t have any easy answers for redressing the imbalance in healthcare research. The NIH seems concerned about it, but it will no doubt take years to fix it. In the meantime, recognize that nobody is more responsible for your health than you. Get regular checkups and screenings and pay attention when your body is trying to tell you something, as for example HMB symptoms.
Your Personal Healthcare
You already know how to live the healthiest life possible: avoid tobacco, eat healthy, exercise regularly, minimize your body fat, drink alcohol only in moderation, reduce stress, avoid environmental hazards like toxins and radiation, avoid risky behavior, maintain your social network and support system, and see to your recovery practices. Peak Recovery & Health Center can help you with that last one.
Resolve not to be marginalized and to live a healthier life. And I will resolve to be more timely in the future in my observance of Women’s Healthcare Month.