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The gender gap in health


The last century was characterised by progress in many areas, e.g. new technological trends, immunisation, healthier lifestyles and a new way of diagnosing and treating disease without cutting skin. Researchers have pinpointed a key reason why people are more likely to get sick and even die from flu during winter months, and phage therapy treats patients with drug-resistant bacterial infections (Science Daily, 2019), to mention a few. Much has also changed in the United States over the past 100 years. Medicine has evolved as much as any field, with dramatic advances in diagnosis and treatment. As a result of these developments, life expectancy is also changing, rising slowly but steadily year after year. One thing, though, has not changed — the gender gap. People of both sexes are living longer, but decade after decade, women continue to outpace men. In fact, the gap is wider now than it was a century ago. This gender gap is not restricted to the United States but occurs in industrialised societies and all developing countries (Harvard University. 2010 – 2019 2010 – 2019 All rights reserved).

Men’s health issues across the world are being severely neglected, a panellist taking part in a worldwide live video conference under the aegis of the World Health Organisation said on Sunday. Those taking part in the unique conference were linked to cities such as Cairo, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Washington, Geneva and Addis Ababa.

The panellist, Professor Edward Bartlett of Washington University’s Public Health Department, called for the promotion of initiatives worldwide to promote men’s health. He said it was anticipated that life expectancy for women in industrialised countries would soon be 90 years. Men’s life expectancy, on the other hand, was nowhere near that, he said. In fact, statistics from Russia showed that the average woman there lived 15 years longer than the average man. He said that women’s health initiatives were being implemented all over the world and women’s issues were being widely addressed. However, programmes for men are lagging, Bartlett claimed. In addition, men globally were three and a half times more likely to commit suicide than women (Independent Media and affiliated companies, 2019. All rights reserved)

Throughout every year and daily there are campaigns on prevention of breast cancer in females and almost daily on social media, while there is not much on this topic for men. This year, an estimated 2 670 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Black men have the highest incidence rates (2.7 out of every 100,000 men), followed by white men (1.9 out of every 100,000 men) CancerNet, 2018.

What’s the reason for the increase in male breast cancer?

Little is known about breast cancer in men since research studies for the condition, still considered rare by conventional medical standards, are few and far between. According to information from a Lancet Seminars review, however, 90% of all male breast carcinomas are ER-positive. Just like for ER-positive breast cancer in women, this means that cancer cells have receptors for oestrogen and that oestrogen can stimulate their growth. Also like female breast cancer, in the majority of cases, it is not the natural oestrogen in a man’s body that is causing cancer, but the presence of harmful xenoestrogens (http://thetruthaboutcancer.com/thank-subscrbingjoiningmission/?cantact­_fields%5…). In most parts of the world, health outcomes amongst boys and men continue to be substantially worse than amongst girls and women, yet this gender-based disparity in health has received little national, regional or global acknowledgement or attention from health policymakers or healthcare providers. Eastern Europe showed the biggest difference in life expectancy between men and women: women in the Russian Federation were outliving men by an average of 11.6 years. According to the Global Health 2035 report, published in The Lancet in 2013, in countries classified as “least developed” and “less developed” by the United Nations, adult mortality fell faster amongst women than amongst men between 1992 and 2012 (Jamison, Summers, Alleyne, Arrow, Berkley, Binagwaho, et al. Global Health 2035: a world converging within a generation. Lancet. 2013; 382:1898-9550.

World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Europe has made a bold commitment to “addressing the impact of gender on men’s health and involving men in achieving gender equity in the WHO European Region through WHO programmes or direct support to Member States”. However, it is unclear what actions the office has taken to date or is planning for the future. In 2011, the European Commission published a comprehensive report, The state of men’s health in Europe, but an action plan based on its findings has not yet been produced (World Health Organisation, Regional Office for Europe [Internet]. Men’s Health. Geneva: WHO; 2014. Available from: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-determinants/gender/activities/mens-health [cited 2014 Feb 21].