Research in women’s health area deserves more attention – and not only for conditions related to reproduction. Two studies and a feature published in Nature on 5th August spotlight the achievements of research into women’s health – and the need for much more.
Both studies illustrate the progress that can be made when women’s health challenges are brought to the fore. But women’s health advocates caution that the field is often still viewed too narrowly.
The study of health and disease in women should not be limited to conditions that affect only women. Conditions such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease affect men and women differently.
Such diseases must be studied in both men and women, with the recognition that diagnosis, prognosis and treatment might need to be different between the sexes.
Heart attacks, for example, are a leading killer of both women and men, but women don’t always experience the ‘typical’ symptoms usually seen in men.
Women are also more prone to blood clots after a heart attack, yet less likely to be prescribed anti-clotting medication by their doctors. Women are 50% more likely than men to receive an initial misdiagnosis after a heart attack, and are less likely to be prescribed medicines to reduce the risk of a second attack, according to the British Heart Foundation.
Since 2016, the US National Institutes of Health has required researchers to carry out pre-clinical studies in both male and female animals, tissues and cells, or to provide an explanation for why it is not appropriate to study both sexes. Now it is up to other funders, researchers and journals to amplify the impact of this change by taking care to report sex-specific data in publications.
Funders should also bolster the resources given to support studies of health and disease in women, and track how much money goes to supporting such research across all domains, not merely gynaecological conditions. That which gets measured gets done.
Read the full article at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02085-6