To say gender inequality still exists in the UK is an understatement. It's there in our pay cheques, in our career trajectories, and also in our healthcare systems - though you may not have realised it. Last year, Cosmopolitan investigated the gender health gap, exploring why misdiagnosis can be so rife among the female sex, why so little health research is carried out with women in mind, and how so many women come to feel dismissed by their doctors.
We've delved into the stark statistics that show Black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth and the post-partum period than white women, and addressed the issue of weight bias in healthcare. And it seems we're not the only ones who see this as a priority area in which to make change. Enter: the Ginsburg Women’s Health Board.
It's encouraging for all women and people with female reproductive organs to hear that a health board has been set up by activists Nimco Ali and Mika Simmons, campaigning for a more equal and effective healthcare system for women. The name is, of course, inspired by the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the famously feminist US Supreme Court judge who passed away last year around the time of the board's inception.
"Ginsburg had to keep fighting for access to abortions, which is healthcare," Nimco Ali explains. "The fact that you had a Supreme Court judge who had to reaffirm the fact that women had the right to basic healthcare - which access to contraception and safe abortions are - is a reminder that even in America, one of the leading countries in the world, women's health is still secondary to the political and male opinions at times."
Mika Simmons, Nimco's co-founder, sets out why it's so imperative the board exists. "Our medical system was born out of a patriarchal investigation into the human body. So now we have a patriarchal testing system, we have a patriarchal diagnostic system," she says, clarifying that "diagnostics in general are not great," because men often aren't diagnosed properly either.
"However, I firmly believe that if we do not do something about it now, this gender health gap will become violence against women," Mika adds. She goes on to explain that if we, as a society, blindly discriminate against women without an awareness of the inequality we're propelling, it's "not great, but it's excusable." The bigger problem comes, she notes, when we know there's a problem - and nothing is done about it. "If you know, and you don't do something about it, it becomes actually oppression," says the activist.
And we do know there's a problem; there's firm data that tells us so. We know that women are more likely to wait longer for certain cancer diagnoses than men. We know that over 15% of trans women have been subjected to inappropriate curiosity when accessing healthcare, which can stop them wanting to go back to the doctor. We know that women are less likely to receive aggressive treatment for pain, instead having that pain reported by their doctor as "emotional," "psychogenic" and "not real."
The core aim of the initiative is to close the gender health gap in three different ways; by improving the way women’s medical data is collected and mapped, speeding up the diagnostic process, and educating and empowering women to know their bodies better so they can be better informed when seeking help from the NHS.
The Ginsburg Women's Health Board - which includes 12 other prominent UK female figures from medicine, media and more, alongside Nimco and Mika - launched at the beginning of the year, and they have now set out their initial priorities to focus on. There are three key policies they will initially be calling on the Government to urgently address, which are:
Fast-tracking women’s gynaecological referrals
Ending the UK’s IVF postcode lottery
Updating the curriculum to include fertility education
Having researched the topic extensively ourselves here at Cosmopolitan - and knowing that 74% of our readers say they've been made to feel they were overreacting by a medical professional - it's encouraging to see top-level action being taken to close the gender health gap.
"My hope is that when pandemics come, and when other priorities come into play for the government, women's health is not sidelined," Nimco says. "I hope that it's seen as a key component to keep this country going, because we are we are 51% of the population. We are 51% of the GDP. I need to see women's health as a key priority."
We couldn't agree more.
To find out more about the Ginsburg Women's Health Board, visit the website.
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