Gender Disparities in Healthcare: the Importance of Women's Health Education


In today's ever-evolving healthcare landscape, where medical knowledge and practices are continually advancing, one might assume that gender disparities in healthcare would be a thing of the past. However, gender bias and data disparities still persist and they have significant consequences for women's health.

To address this issue, the importance of educating medical professionals in the subject of women's health cannot be overstated. In this blog, we explore existing gender data bias in healthcare and the pivotal role that women's health education plays in bridging these gaps, and ultimately improving the wellbeing and health outcomes of women.

Gender data bias in Healthcare

Gender disparities in healthcare are pervasive and affect various aspects of medical practice, from diagnosis to treatment and research. A major contributor to these disparities is the historical underrepresentation of women in clinical trials and medical research.

Caroline Criado Perez’s popular book ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men’ includes numerous statistics demonstrating inequality and how women are disadvantaged in society. Amongst our Women’s Health students, this book has been named as an inspiring and motivational resource.

Examples of such statistics include that in spite of the fact that women make up approximately 50% of the world’s population, women make up a relatively small percentage of participants in a number of medical research trials. For example, a 2016 review of the inclusion of women in US HIV research found that women made up only 19.2% of participants in antiretroviral studies, 38.1% in vaccination studies and just 11.1% in studies to find a cure.

The above statistics are particularly shocking in light of the fact that women represent 55%, over half of HIV-positive adults in the developing world, compounded further by the fact that women and girls face increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

Women's Health statistics

Research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago, led by Professor Irving Zucker, found that for decades, women have been excluded from clinical drug trials. His findings confirm the persistence of a drug dose gender gap in which females have been disregarded, in part due to hormonal fluctuations which could affect studies.

Another example is the 2014 review of the FDA database of a cardiac resynchronisation therapy device (CRT-D) trials, in which women made up just 20% of participants. With such a small data sample, the study initially found no statistically significant findings between men and women, until all trial results were combined and disaggregated. At this point, researchers discovered that the 150 millisecond threshold the life-saving device required for men was in fact 20 milliseconds too high for women. Women were found to have a 76% reduction in heart failure or death from an electrical wave of between 130-149 milliseconds - though on the basis of the guidelines derived from male bodies, women would not have been eligible for the treatments.

These cases represent only a fraction of the entire problem of the historic bias against women in healthcare.

The consequences of this underrepresentation are twofold. Firstly, the lack of female representation in clinical trials means that many treatments and medications are primarily developed based on male physiology. This can result in suboptimal outcomes for women, as their unique biological and hormonal differences may lead to different responses to treatments. Secondly, the lack of gender diversity in research has contributed to a gap in understanding female-specific health issues.

Conditions like endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and menopause are under-researched, leading to delayed or misdiagnoses. Gender data bias extends to areas like heart disease, where women's symptoms often differ from men's and are frequently overlooked. This can have dire consequences, as heart disease is a leading cause of death in women. Addressing these disparities requires comprehensive changes in the medical field, starting with education.

The Role of Women’s Health Education

Educating healthcare professionals in women’s health is a crucial step towards reducing gender disparities in healthcare and reducing unnecessary deaths among women due to a lack of specialist knowledge, delayed or incorrect diagnoses, and procedures such as unsafe abortion.

At Learna | Diploma MSc, our Women’s Health Courses are designed to equip healthcare providers, including GPs, nurses, midwives and healthcare professionals in sexual health settings, with the specialist knowledge required to provide safe, appropriate and comprehensive care to female patients presenting with a range of common women’s health issues.

Our Postgraduate Diploma in Women’s Health focuses on the unique healthcare needs of women and offers a deep dive into various aspects of women’s health, including reproductive health, gynaecological care and female cancers.

Undertaking the MSc Women’s Health programme with Learna will incorporate all of the PGDip modules and more, with a professional project forming part of the second year - an opportunity to embark on research in a chosen topic relating to women’s health, allowing students to refine essential critical research skills, and offering the opportunity to make a real difference in this ever-evolving field.

Closing the gender data gap in Healthcare

As resource allocation and prioritisation for women’s health vary greatly around the world, there are a significant number of healthcare professionals globally who feel out of their comfort zone when it comes to managing women’s health issues due to a lack of specialist knowledge in the field. Specialised education such as our Women’s Health courses for nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals in both primary and secondary care environments can empower these individuals to treat their patients with confidence and provide them with the high quality care they deserve.

Our women’s health programmes can be shaped to meet your learning needs, with relevant knowledge in many different areas, and a peer network of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals around the world, allowing you to gain a global perspective as you share differences and best practice in different parts of the world.

We pride ourselves on a flexible learning environment, where students can log in daily to engage with clinical scenarios at a time that suits them. You will be supported academically throughout your studies by expert tutors with a wealth of knowledge and experience in women’s health, as well as having access to our dedicated Student Services team.

In addition to Women’s Health, we also offer PGDip and MSc programmes in Sexual and Reproductive Medicine and as of this March, a brand new Postgraduate Certificate in Menopause Medicine, both of which further support our mission to improve healthcare provision for women worldwide.

By enrolling on our Women’s Health courses, you can contribute to reducing gender disparities in healthcare and promoting better health outcomes for women. Are you ready to advance your career, gain specialist knowledge and make a difference in women’s health?

Visit our course pages to apply and join our March 2024 intake.