Seven ways to work towards gender equality in healthcare

March 18, 2021

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The Health Innovation Network works with a number of innovators which could potentially support the health and social care sector. Max Landry is Chief Commercial Officer and Co-Founder of Peppy Health, an app offering guidance for people undergoing big life transitions such as pregnancy, menopause and fertility. He offers his insights on how we can work towards gender equality in healthcare.

We at Peppy have welcomed the opportunity to celebrate women and challenge gender inequality, but we believe this change needs to happen every day.

We #ChooseToChallenge that support is lacking for some of life’s key transitions – fertility, pregnancy, early parenthood and menopause. We believe that the solution lies in organisations supporting people with dedicated healthcare benefits, and that a failure to give the right support will contribute directly towards the widening of gender inequality in terms of financial, physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

With this in mind, here are seven ‘top tips’ which we believe will help us work towards the achievement of lasting gender equality in healthcare.

  1. Stop calling them “women’s issues”

Because they’re not. From to pregnancy termination, to difficulty breastfeeding, to menopause symptoms, these issues can touch anyone – partners, family members, colleagues and even line managers – at home as well as at work.

  1. Demand respect and dignity

The term ‘women’s issues’ distorts the way we perceive them.

Period cramps and symptoms of the menopause such as dizzy spells and hot flushes can be genuinely debilitating, yet almost half of all women in the UK say they shy away from asking for help with symptoms of menopause. Only by giving these ailments the support they need will we begin treat the individuals with the respect they deserve.

  1. Challenge gender bias in medical research

Women are 50 per cent more likely than men to be misdiagnosed following a heart attack (British Heart Foundation). The problem is that the default model in so much of our society is the white male. Assumptions are based, as Caroline Criado Perez has shown in her book ‘Invisible Women’, on a “one-size-fits-all-men” model. When we are looking at data, we need to analyse by factors such as gender, age and background and close the “gender data gap” as a matter of urgency (Davos 2020 gender data gap). 

  1. Increase accessibility

Healthcare should be based on where people actually are, not just the location of GP clinics. We must make accessible healthcare the norm.

The pandemic has led to a 37 per cent rise in the use of healthcare apps. At the same time, the “stay at home” order has had an adverse impact on women, whose disproportionate role as home-school teachers and carers has limited their ability to access traditional healthcare.

  1. Give the right Fertility, Baby and Menopause support

Experiencing fertility issues, becoming a parent and going through menopause are key life transitions which can be overlooked by employers, private medical insurance, and which affect the bottom line of businesses globally. Luckily, organisations do not have to face these issues alone.

Peppy works with employers to give their people (and their partners) access to trustworthy, dedicated support for fertility, pregnancy, early parenthood and menopause, all via a secure app. Partnering with Peppy, Vitality has just become the first UK private medical insurer to offer its members and corporate clients dedicated menopause support. The digital healthcare benefit offers everything from one-to-one virtual consultations with expert practitioners to vetted resources and events, including moderated group chats.

  1. Promote gender inclusivity for all – including LGBTQ+ communities

Despite higher levels of depression than in the wider community, one in seven LGBTQ+ individuals will avoid seeking help due to a fear that they will be discriminated against by medical staff.

At an organisational level, you can take action by offering health benefits that are inclusive, such as menopause support that recognises that not all people going through menopause will self-identify as female, and fertility and baby support specific to same-sex couples considering surrogacy or adoption.

Read more about south London’s first transgender sexual health service, funded by the Health Innovation Network.

  1. Reject so-called “gender norms”

We need to continue to challenge old-fashioned gender stereotypes. The stale idea that “men don’t cry” is steadily being eroded by movements like Movember, which focus all year round on tackling male health issues and raising awareness of the high rates of suicide among men.

To achieve a culture where gender is no longer a barrier to effective healthcare, organisations must offer the right support. Taking the seven above steps will benefit employee and employer alike, helping to build a happier, healthier, more inclusive workplace, and enabling us to come closer to achieving gender equality in healthcare.

Further information

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