Posted by Midhat Zaman on March 23, 2022
Midhat Zaman

Historical inequity has shaped the way women experience and interact with the healthcare system. Their health needs have long been misunderstood, downplayed, or ignored, but things are changing. Women are recognizing the challenges they face and are actively advocating for their health. At the same time, new contributors to healthcare are transforming the future of medicine. Here’s a look at some barriers to women’s health that still exist.


Lack of medical research 

For decades, women have been excluded from scientific research: they represent only 33% of clinical trial participants for HIV/AIDS, 37% for cardiovascular disease, and 34% for hepatitis1. This has created a medical system that doesn’t acknowledge their specific needs. The truth is that men and women have different health concerns, risks, and symptoms. As a result, in many cases, the appropriate diagnosis and treatment are also different. 

Here are just a few ways in which women’s health experiences differ:

  • Over 60% of people living with Alzheimer’s disease are women2.

  • 78% of those affected by autoimmune diseases are women3.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis impacts women 3x more than men4.

  • Women are 4x more likely to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis5.

A lack of female participants in clinical research means that results from these studies cannot always be applied to women. Recent studies reveal the true risks of this knowledge gap:

  • Women with heart disease are diagnosed up to 10 years later than their male counterparts6.

  • On average, it takes 7 years for women to be diagnosed with endometriosis7

  • In 90% of cases where women are given the same drug dosage as men, they’ve experienced severe side effects8.


Misunderstanding and misdiagnosis

In a 2018 study, researchers interviewed general practitioners and gynecologists to understand the language used in relation to female patients – in this case, women with endometriosis. Women for whom treatment was not effective, who persisted in seeking other forms of treatment, or who perceived their condition differently than their doctors were discussed as having “hysterical tendencies” or as being “difficult women”9. This common discourse of perceived exaggeration is amplified by the fact that women are often overlooked when it comes to physical pain. To put it simply, many women are not believed or taken seriously. 


Social, cultural, and family obligations

Caring for loved ones is a top priority for many women, even if it means personal well-being takes a backseat. In fact, 55% of caregivers admit to neglecting their own health10. Children, partners, and elderly parents typically rely on women to accompany them to medical appointments, fill out forms, manage medication or special diets, and more. Women are essential in managing and maintaining the health of their families. But when it comes to investing in their own health, too many women fail to put themselves first.  

Luckily, the landscape of healthcare is changing. Gender bias, conscious or unconscious, is a well-known issue, and a new generation of medical professionals are working to dismantle barriers to quality health. Take a look at some of the important changes that are already taking place, and how women can take control of their healthcare.




How Dialogue makes a difference

At Dialogue, we’re committed to making high-quality healthcare as accessible as possible. Our team of nurses, doctors, mental health specialists, and other professionals are available 24/7, so that members can get the care they need, when they need it.

  • Virtual appointments mean that you can schedule a consultation when the time is right for you, from the comfort of your home, without compromising on other responsibilities.

  • Personalized follow-ups allow you and your care providers to ensure you're on the path to recovery.

  • One simplified application makes it easy to address all health and well-being issues consistently across multiple health providers. 


Take control of your health today.

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  1. Quantifying Sex Bias in Clinical Studies at Scale With Automated Data Extraction

  2. 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures

  3. Women and Autoimmune Diseases

  4. Why Women Get Rheumatoid Arthritis More Than Men

  5. Multiple Sclerosis: Why Are Women More at Risk?

  6. Gender differences in coronary heart disease

  7. Women Are Not Getting the Healthcare They Deserve

  8. Sex differences in pharmacokinetics predict adverse drug reactions in women

  9. Clinicians’ discursive constructions of Medicine and women with endometriosis

  10. 10 Alarming Facts About Family Caregivers and Seven Ways to Address Them

Topics: Health and Wellness

About the author

Midhat Zaman is a content strategist, marketer, and avid writer at Dialogue. She is deeply committed to helping HR leaders and employees effectively navigate workplace challenges. Midhat puts her love for great content to work with health and wellness in mind. Through insightful articles, comprehensive guides, and more, she aims to empower Canadians with the right support to improve their well-being.