10. Gender Differentials in Health


Shehzad Noorani/The World Bank

Sex and gender are established parameters for research and implementation in public health, but their use historically has been confined to addressing female–specific health issues, not conditions shared by both men and women. In recent years, however, interest in measuring, understanding, and responding to gender differences in diseases has surged, providing a deeper understanding of women's health throughout the world and underscoring issues of health equity.

Women, on average, live longer but less healthy lives than men do. Some of women's excess health burdens, such as uterine cancer, are based solely on genetic and biological sex differences. Other excess health burdens, such as injuries from domestic fires or abuse, are based on gender–related cultural factors. Sex generally plays a bigger role in the etiology, onset, and progression of disease, while gender roles influence symptom recognition, severity of disease, and access to and compliance with care.

A study of gender–specific conditions and shared conditions that disproportionately affect women reveals a total of 19 conditions?including maternal hemorrhage, obstructed labor, ovarian cancer, chlamydia, and Alzheimer's disease—that should receive priority attention in health research and practice. Cost–effective health technologies have reduced the incidence of many of these conditions among women in developed countries and should be deployed in developing countries as well.