Imagine going to the doctor and being told your severe abdominal pain is "just stress" or a figment of your imagination, only to discover later it's a serious condition that went undiagnosed because your symptoms were downplayed. 

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too familiar for countless women around the world. Healthcare inequality for women is a pervasive issue, deeply rooted in historical biases, underrepresentation in medical research, and societal norms that see male health as the “default” [1]. 

This post aims to shed light on these disparities, exploring their origins, the multifaceted challenges they pose today, and how we can collectively work towards a fairer healthcare system. 

Understanding the Landscape of Healthcare Inequality

Historical Context

The roots of healthcare inequality can be traced back centuries. Historically, women's health issues have been mystified, overlooked, or dismissed as hysteria [1]. This legacy of misunderstanding and mistreatment has laid the groundwork for today's disparities in healthcare. Until recently, women were significantly underrepresented in clinical trials, leading to a lack of data on how diseases uniquely affect them [1, 3]. This historical oversight has profound implications, from the effectiveness of drugs to the strategies used for diagnosis and treatment. [1]

Gender Bias in Medical Research

For decades, medical research and clinical trials have skewed towards male participants [3], under the assumption that findings would be universally applicable. Additionally, studies in women’s healthcare issues are often underfunded [4]. This gender bias has led to a troubling knowledge gap. For example, heart attack symptoms in women can differ vastly from those in men, yet the 'classic' chest pain symptom is based on male-centric studies  [1]. This disparity in research not only affects diagnosis but also the development of treatments that are truly effective across genders [1]. 

The Impact of Stereotypes and Gender Norms

Stereotypes and gender norms play a significant role in perpetuating healthcare inequality. Women's pain and symptoms are more likely to be underestimated or dismissed in healthcare settings, a phenomenon often referred to as "medical gaslighting" [5, 6]. This skepticism towards women's health concerns can delay diagnosis, lead to inadequate treatment, and, ultimately, worse health outcomes [7]. Furthermore, societal norms around gender can prevent women from seeking care, particularly for issues related to reproductive and sexual health, due to stigma and shame [10]. 

Key Areas of Concern

Reproductive Health

The disparity in knowledge and care in reproductive health is stark. Women often face significant barriers in accessing contraceptives, receiving comprehensive maternal healthcare, and obtaining accurate fertility treatments [11, 12]. Additionally, conditions like endometriosis, which exclusively affect women, suffer from a lack of awareness and research, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment [8]. The gap in reproductive health care not only impacts women's physical health but also their mental, emotional, and social well-being.

Mental Health

Mental health issues in women, such as depression and anxiety, are often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Postpartum depression, a condition affecting many new mothers, exemplifies the need for more specialized care and understanding within healthcare systems. The stigma surrounding mental health, combined with gender-specific risk factors (e.g., hormonal changes, societal pressures), exacerbates the challenges women face in seeking help and receiving appropriate treatment [13].

Chronic Conditions

Women are more likely to suffer from certain chronic conditions like autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia [15]. However, the gender differences in symptoms, progression, and treatment responses are not fully understood, leading to less effective care. Plus, women are being seen as overreacting when it comes to pain [16]. Heart disease, for example, is often considered a 'male' disease, which can influence the quality of care women receive [14]. Studies in the UK showed that one in three women face a three-year wait for a diagnosis for their health condition [9].

Access to Healthcare

Socio-economic factors, race, and geography significantly affect women's access to quality healthcare services [17]. These barriers include lack of insurance, geographical distance from healthcare facilities, and discrimination within the healthcare system, further widening the health disparity gap.

The Role of Technology and Innovation

Telehealth and Digital Health Platforms

The rise of telehealth and digital health platforms presents a promising avenue to improve access to healthcare for women. These technologies can transcend geographical barriers, making it easier for women in remote or underserved areas to consult with healthcare providers. Moreover, telehealth can offer more privacy and comfort for women seeking help for sensitive health issues, encouraging them to take proactive steps towards their health and well-being.

Female-focused Health Apps and Wearables

Innovations like the Wild.AI app, which tailors health and fitness recommendations based on the menstrual cycle, are paving the way for more personalized healthcare solutions for women. These apps and wearables can track menstrual cycles, predict ovulation, and monitor symptoms, providing valuable insights into women's unique health needs. By leveraging data and analytics, these tools can empower women to make informed decisions about their health and fitness routines.

The Potential of Personalized Medicine

Advancements in genomics and biotechnology hold the key to personalized medicine, offering customized healthcare solutions based on an individual's genetic makeup. For women, this could mean more effective treatments for gender-specific conditions, better understanding of risk factors for diseases like breast and ovarian cancer, and tailored medication that accounts for hormonal fluctuations across the menstrual cycle. Personalized medicine could revolutionize healthcare for women, ensuring they receive care that is as unique as their genetic blueprint.

Towards a More Inclusive Healthcare System

Here are some of our recommendations for a better, more inclusive healthcare system that works for everyone.

Policy Recommendations

Creating a more inclusive healthcare system starts with policy reform. Governments and health organizations should implement policies that:

  • Ensure women are adequately represented in clinical research to address the gender data gap.
  • Promote equity in healthcare access regardless of socio-economic status, race, or geography.
  • Support reproductive rights and provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.
  • Increase funding for conditions that predominantly affect women, such as autoimmune diseases and osteoporosis.
  • Mandate education for healthcare professionals on gender differences in symptoms, disease progression, and treatment responses.

Empowering Patients

Empowerment is crucial for overcoming healthcare biases. Women can be empowered through:

  • Education on their rights as patients and the specific health issues that affect them.
  • Encouragement to advocate for themselves in medical settings, such as asking for second opinions or requesting specific tests.
  • Access to supportive communities, both online and offline, where women can share experiences, advice, and resources.

The Role of Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers play a key role in breaking down biases. Steps they can take include:

  • Undergoing training to recognize and combat implicit biases that may affect their treatment of women.
  • Listening to their patients empathetically and taking their concerns seriously to avoid medical gaslighting.
  • Staying informed about the latest research on gender differences in health to provide the most effective care.

Actionable Steps for the Reader

Supporting Advocacy and Change

Readers can contribute to breaking the healthcare bias by:

  • Supporting organizations and initiatives that focus on women's health advocacy and research.
  • Participating in awareness campaigns that highlight issues of healthcare inequality.
  • Voting for and supporting policymakers who prioritize women's health issues.

Educating Oneself and Others

Knowledge is power. Readers can take steps to educate themselves and their communities by:

  • Reading books, articles, and studies about women's health issues.
  • Attending workshops, webinars, and talks on healthcare inequality and women's health.
  • Sharing credible information and resources on social media to raise awareness.

Lifestyle and Dietary Recommendations

While systemic changes are necessary, personal health can also be improved through lifestyle and dietary choices. Recommendations for women include:

  • Tailoring nutrition and exercise routines to the phases of the menstrual cycle, using apps like Wild.AI for guidance.
  • Incorporating supplements and foods that support hormonal balance and overall health, such as omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and calcium.
  • Practicing stress-reduction techniques, like mindfulness and yoga, to manage the mental health impacts of hormonal fluctuations.


Healthcare inequality for women is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach to address. From policy changes and patient empowerment to the role of healthcare providers, there are steps that can be taken at all levels of society to create a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system. By taking action, whether through advocacy, education, or personal health management, we can all contribute to breaking the bias and improving healthcare for women. Together, we can move towards a future where every woman receives the care and respect she deserves.

  1. Perez, C.C., 2019. Invisible Women: The Sunday Times number one bestseller exposing the gender bias women face every day. Random House. 
  2. Tasca, C., Rapetti, M., Carta, M.G., Fadda, B., 2012. Women And Hysteria In The History Of Mental Health. Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health 8, 110–119. 
  3. Daitch, V., Turjeman, A., Poran, I., Tau, N., Ayalon-Dangur, I., Nashashibi, J., Yahav, D., Paul, M., Leibovici, L., 2022. Underrepresentation of women in randomized controlled trials: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Trials 23. 
  4. Adams, K., 2022. Women’s Health is Suffering Due to Lack of Research and Funding, Experts Say. MedCity News.
  5. Moyer, M.W., 2022. What Is ‘Medical Gaslighting’ and How Can You Elevate Health Care. The New York Times. 
  6. Jerome , L.W., Ph.D., 2022. How Women Suffer Medical Gaslighting [WWW Document]. Psychology Today. URL (accessed 3.1.24). 
  7. Leonard, J., 2021. Gender bias in medical diagnosis [WWW Document]. Medical News Today. URL (accessed 3.1.24). 
  8. Hudson, N., 2021. The missed disease? Endometriosis as an example of “undone science.” Reproductive biomedicine & society online 14, 20–27. 
  9. Oppenheim, M., 2023. One in three women with female health conditions forced to wait three years for diagnosis. The Independent. 
  10. RCOG and women’s health organisations joint statement on stigma and shame in women’s health services [WWW Document], n.d. . RCOG. URL 
  11. Durowade, K.A., Omokanye, L.O., Elegbede, O.E., Adetokunbo, S., Olomofe, C.O., Ajiboye, A.D., Adeniyi, M.A., Sanni, T.A., 2017. Barriers to Contraceptive Uptake among Women of Reproductive Age in a Semi-Urban Community of Ekiti State, Southwest Nigeria. Ethiopian journal of health sciences 27, 121–128. 
  12. Committee on Health for Underserved Women, 2015. Access to Contraception [WWW Document]. ACOG. URL 
  13. Dusenbery, M., 2018. “Everybody was telling me there was nothing wrong.” BBC. 
  14. O’Connor, A., 2022. Why Heart Disease in Women Is So Often Missed or Dismissed. The New York Times. 
  15. Temkin, S.M., Barr, E., Moore, H., Caviston, J.P., Regensteiner, J.G., Clayton, J.A., 2023. Chronic conditions in women: the development of a National Institutes of health framework. BMC women’s health 23, 162. 
  16. Graham, S., 2021. Women are still branded “hysterical” because of chronic illnesses which are under-researched and under-funded [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 3.1.24). 
  17.  Allen, J., Sesti, F., 2018. Health inequalities and women –  addressing unmet needs. British Medical Association, London.