Experts discuss how to solve the gender health gap

Clockwise from top left: Maya Oppenheim, Dr Geeta Nargund, Sandra Igwe, Le’Nise Brothers, Dr Jess Taylor and Rebecca Thomas (The Independent )
Clockwise from top left: Maya Oppenheim, Dr Geeta Nargund, Sandra Igwe, Le’Nise Brothers, Dr Jess Taylor and Rebecca Thomas (The Independent )

Education, research and having open conversations are just some of the steps that need to be taken to solve the gender health gap, according to experts who took part in an International Women’s Day panel for The Independent.

Dr Geeta Nargund, founder and medical director of CREATE Fertility and co-founder of the Ginsburg Women’s Health Board, told the panel a lot of work needed to be done to remove barriers and eliminate stigmas for women including education.

“You should not be able to use womens trauma against them in the healthcare system,” said psychologist Dr Jessica Taylor, author of Why Women Are Blamed For Everything and Sexy But Psycho.

Sandra Igwe, founder of The Motherhood Group and author of My Black Motherhood: Mental Health, Stigma, Racism and the System, stressed the need for self-education and reflection to overcome prejudices and tackle unconscious bias. “Allow us and encourage us to be honest and vulnerable,” she added. “Create safe spaces where we can be ourselves... We are the best advocates for ourselves so get us to advocate. Many of us feel silenced and shy .”

Le’Nise Brothers, Women’s Health and Wellbeing Expert and author of You Can Have a Better Period, said it was important to remove the onus on the patient to advocate for themselves. She said: “It can be challenging if you don’t have the inner strength” and stressed the need for GPs to be willing to research conditions further.

The gender health gap is a long-standing, deeply entrenched problem that stretches back centuries - yet it is an issue which is only finally starting to get the attention it so desperately deserves.

But the question remains: What is the gender health gap? It is a term used to describe the disparity in health outcomes and treatment experienced by male and female patients. But the gender health gap does not operate in a vacuum, with many women being forced to grapple with far worse experiences due to their race, sexuality or disability.

Many experts warn scientific research has long overlooked women’s bodies - with many conditions which only affect women receiving less funding. There are also a number of studies that show women’s pain is often taken far less seriously than that of men.

While the data demonstrates women are not only forced to spend longer stretches of time waiting in emergency departments but are also less likely to be prescribed effective painkillers than men. At the end of last year, the government announced a new position of women’s health ambassador would be created to help “reset the dial” on decades of gender health inequality in England.

Five experts from a range of backgrounds came together for a wide-ranging discussion on the gender health gap hosted by myself, Maya Oppenheim, The Independent’s Women’s Correspondent.

The expert panel included Rebecca Thomas, The Independent’s Health Correspondent, Dr Jessica Taylor, Le’Nise Brothers, Sandra Igweand Dr Geeta Nargund.

What ensued was an impassioned riveting discussion packed with information, with some of the panellists disagreeing about whether NHS health professionals are impacted by class bias. To see The Independent virtual event on the gender health gap in full, watch the video below: