You’ve heard of the pay gap and you’ve followed the horrors of the #metoo movement, now get ready for ‘The Health Gap.’
Women and healthcare have always had a tumultuous relationship. Race and poverty come into play when discussing who has it worse in healthcare, however, they are huge conversations on their own. Throughout history women’s health queries have been ignored, misdiagnosed and dismissed as dramatics. From the Ancient Greeks believing most of women’s pains came from a wandering womb – to the Victorian times, when doctors had a nasty habit of admitting any woman with mysterious pain to mental hospitals, and diagnosing them instead with the metal disorder ‘hysteria’ (Greek for of the uterus).
Some argue that the traditional medical system as it stands now, forces women to question themselves. Most women will experience this when it comes to their concerns regarding gynaecological disorders. Endometriosis affects one in ten women in the UK and yet it can take up to 8 years to be diagnosed according to the organisation Endometriosis UK. Its symptoms mean women often go misdiagnosed with anxiety, depression or bipolar disease.
Emma Cox, Chief Executive of Endometriosis UK, told Voice of London: “Timely diagnosis could save women from many years of pain, distress and suffering. The impact a delayed diagnosis has on a woman’s life – her education, work, relationships and personal life – can be huge. On top of coping with the disease itself, women have to put up with being told, sometimes for years, that what they have is ‘in their heads’ or ‘normal’, when it isn’t.”
Lizzie Bates describes her struggle getting diagnosed as a young women in university:
Stories of women being waved away by their doctor’s and told to “take a Panadol” are bleeding together and are now being discussed more openly in social media.
Raise your hand if you’re a woman and you’ve ever suffered from chronic mystery pain that a doctor (or several) just went ¯_(ツ)_/¯ at
— Amber “Noelle” Sparks (@ambernoelle) December 1, 2018
My old doctor used to say I was depressed/ overwhelmed when I told him my symptoms. It wasn’t until I went to A&E **three** times that he took the tests I had been begging for. I was two weeks away from a heart attack, the results showed. He never apologised.
— 👩🏾💻 (@natalieisonline) November 16, 2018
Stories like the birth of Serena William’s daughter in January this year, where she had to repeatedly tell her nurse that she was experiencing a pulmonary embolism, are bringing the lack of understanding in women’s health to the front pages of major publications like Vogue and are forcing us to take a closer look at the inequality and disparity that is extremely prevalent in the current healthcare system, and help us to bridge the ‘health gap’.
Words & audio by Sorcha Gilheany | Subbing by Fiona Patterson