Since its origins in the 1970s, the issue of gender equity in medicine has affected countless women, said Hadassah’s health advocacy chair, Anne Davis.
She highlighted ongoing issues related to disparities between men and women, including common reactions to medications related to heart disease, symptoms associated with men and women, and inadequate health care coverage.
Those are among the issues raised by Hadassah’s National Women’s Health Empowerment Coalition to be discussed during the Gender Equity in Medicine (G.E.M) Forum, “Driving Optimal Treatment for Women,” on Sunday, Sept. 10, at Congregation Or Hadash. The event will feature a panel of experts on heart health, Alzheimer’s and hormones, as well as national coalition members the American Heart Association and Alzheimer’s Foundation and local members such as Planned Parenthood, the National Council of Jewish Women and Baken Atlanta (In the Nest).
According to statistics published in Hadassah’s December 2016 magazine, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, but only one-third of research subjects are female. Moreover, while 66 percent of people with depression are women, only 45 percent of animal research subjects are female. Only 38 percent of clinical trials for hypertension study women, even though 55 percent of people killed by hypertension are women.
“I was shocked when I first heard about this, which is why we are running this program,” event co-chair Ellen Sichel said. “I wanted to educate people, as they may be clueless about the disparities and not know what questions to ask their doctors when given a prescription.”
In addition to advocacy for more research on women, Hadassah meets with legislators on health-related bills regarding the need for affordable and adequate health care coverage and runs educational programs on the importance of women’s health equity.
“It’s opened my eyes, and I think as president of Hadassah’s health professional group, people need to be educated in order to take better care of themselves,” Sichel said. “We want the program to be a living-room-style event where individuals have their questions answered by a top team of professionals who are capable of providing them with further information.”
Scheduled speakers include Emory neurologist Allan Levey, Emory cardiologist Nanette Wenger and Femasys’ vice president for clinical affairs, Mimi Zieman. Internist Rachel Schonberger, who chairs the Hadassah Medical Organization, is moderating the discussion.
The panelists will talk about male/female disparities in medical research and the resulting harm to women through ineffective or improper treatments, research in heart disease, testing among women, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and hormonal effects on women.
“Hadassah spearheads a lot of change, and it’s so important to educate and let the community know what we’re about, what we’re doing and how we are helping the community at large,” Davis said.
The program’s mission, she said, is to generate greater representation for women on lawmakers’ health care work groups by signing petitions, attending town halls and serving as advocates while working with legislators on health care issues.
“We are the greatest nation in the world, and yet our health care outcomes are not as good as other countries, which is something all health care organizations are concerned about,” Davis said. “More and more women are underrepresented and underinsured due to lower-paying jobs or are working for smaller companies, yet we can make a difference.”
Sichel added, “People must be proactive with their health and self-care. Gender equity in medicine goes beyond everyday information; as individuals, we must be educated on what that means.”
What: Gender Equity in Medicine: “Driving Optimal Treatment for Women”
When: 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10
Where: Congregation Or Hadash, 7460 Trowbridge Road, Sandy Springs
Tickets: $18; www.hadassah.org/events/gem2017 (pre-registration required for continuing education units)