What is women’s health and why is it important?

Here at the Norwegian Research Center for Women’s Health, we appreciate the public attention on women’s health over the past weeks in Norway. I suspect that some of the reason for this debate is that we have different perceptions of what women’s health really is.

Menstrual Complaints or Lifelong Health Care?

As an obstetrician on the labor ward, I get to share incredible moments with a new family, but I also see women grapple with the illnesses and concerns related to pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. This part of women’s health, reproductive health, is obviously close to my heart.

For me, as a gynecologist and medical doctor, it is natural to also include the complaints of menopause, cervical cancer and endometriosis as a part of women’s health. It can be easy to forget the fact that women react differently to certain drugs than men, or that research on how women are treated by the health care system is a part of women’s health. .

I have a plea to the politicians and administration for more earmarked research funding for women’s health (…)

The gender gap in health is also women’s health. These are diseases and disorders that affect only women, affect women more than men, affect especially many women, or have different outcomes for women than men.

Some examples of these disparities are that women have different heart attack symptoms than men and are at risk of being misdiagnosed, that rheumatic diseases affect more women than men, and that research-based There is a lack of knowledge, or that many older women have osteoporosis which is not the optimal treatment.

What about women’s health outside Norway?

Health is often understood in terms of society’s expectations and resources, and although it probably shouldn’t be, I think women’s health in Afghanistan has different issues than women’s health in Norway.

Globally, it is a major problem that women die due to pregnancy and childbirth, or do not receive the health care they need because of inequality or lack of access to qualified health care.

In a research project I participate in, we investigate severe bleeding after childbirth. This is potentially life-threatening, but luckily women in Norway rarely die from bleeding. Nevertheless, it is important to find out more about such serious complications of childbirth in order to ensure safe births for Norwegian women, but also to contribute to increasing knowledge of a complication that continues to affect childbirth worldwide. can affect all women with

Therefore research on women’s health in Norway can also be useful for countries that cannot conduct themselves for various reasons. Research papers are mostly published in a way that makes it possible for everyone to read, and at congresses we can meet doctors and researchers from all over the world to share results.

What about women’s health in Norway today, and what are the knowledge-gaps?

As a woman in Norway in 2022, I truly believe I’m in a pretty good position. I am fortunate to live in a society where there is a focus on equality between men and women, and a public health system available to all.

Still, I know that some diseases of women are under-prioritized both in health personnel and in research. The Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association has demonstrated how endometriosis is a disease with a knowledge-gap, which is not given sufficient priority by health-care personnel. Another, and often embarrassing condition with a lack of attention, is chronic genital pain, and these examples are far from alone.

Just before the turn of the millennium, a report appeared on women’s health in Norway (NOU 1999:13, regjeringen.no)., Report concluded that there was a lack of knowledge about specific women’s diseases and the relationship between health and living conditions. It also demonstrated that there was already significant knowledge about women’s health and life situations that was not taken into account in health care policy decisions or in the health care system.

Lack of research on girls and older women

In Norway, it is time for a new assessment of women’s health, and a new report will be prepared by womenCommittee on Health, a public committee on women’s health and wellness from a gender perspective,

I hope that the updated compendium of knowledge will reach our decision-makers, and that the material will be taken into account in other ways, so that the committee’s work can contribute to change and improvement in women’s health in Norway.

Regarding further research into women’s health, a report was recently published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The report points out that there is a lack of research on girls as children and adolescents as well as older women.

It was also noted that there is a lack of systematic reviews on some conditions, for example vaginal wall prolapse. We need more knowledge about how traditional treatments affect women in diseases such as COPD, skin cancer and lipoedema.

What research do we do at the Norwegian Research Center for Women’s Health?

I am so proud of all of my colleagues who advocate for women’s health in the hospital and in research!

In our shared office is obstetrician and senior researcher Katrina Lane. Among other things, she has researched, and contributed to, the reduction of perineal injuries after childbirth.

Also in the office is dermatologist Kristin Schulrud. Her research project is testing drugs against the painful vulvar disease genital erosive lichen planus. Her supervisor and dermatologist Anne Liss Helgeson has also created the website Vulva.no, which contributes to increasing knowledge about vulvar complaints, a previously neglected area of ​​women’s health.

I hope you have learned a little more about women’s health, and understand my passion for women’s health care and research.

I have a plea to the politicians and administration for more earmarked research funding for women’s health. And for those same politicians and health care facilities, calls for action to implement the treatments demonstrated by the research are missing.

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