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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

Gender Inequality in Health and Access to Healthcare

We often talk about one of the benefits of the Global Goals being the interconnectedness of the issues they address. We cannot achieve Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being if we do not achieve Goal 5: Gender Equality and vice versa.

As we work towards a more sustainable future, we must focus on these goals and the intersection between these two.

It is important to note here that when we speak of gender inequality within healthcare, we see inequality in men, women and non-binary persons. Many of these barriers we can work to overcome ourselves.

Gender-Based Violence

Unfortunately, for those who experience gender-based violence and harassment, coming forward to a doctor about any issues that could be related to this is not always an easy decision to make. Many women feel shame around gender-based violence or feel embarrassed that they are now a survivor of such behaviour. However, problems can often arise, in physical, mental and emotional forms, and can at times require medical attention. If you have suffered from gender-based violence, we encourage you to speak to a doctor. We understand that this can be uncomfortable. In these instances, if you can speak to someone you trust to accompany you - even if it is just to the waiting room - it can sometimes ease any feelings of anxiety around this. If you know someone who has experienced gender-based violence, consider finding an appropriate way in which you can raise the question as to whether or not they have spoken to a doctor about the incident and the follow-on effects since. These conversations are very difficult so be very mindful of your timing, your wording and your existing relationship with the person.

Body Image Stereotypes

Body image stereotypes can have a profound effect on young people, especially young women. The expectations to look a certain way can drastically affect the mental health of young people, which may lead to behaviours harmful to physical health, such as extreme fasting, bingeing, over-exercising, unsafe cosmetic procedures, etc. Young people are now facing a new psychological phenomenon named Snapchat Dysmorphia, which is the inability to separate how one might look in real life as to how one appears on social media. While men also face this pressure, for many men, it is not to the same extent as the pressure women face. We can make a commitment to this by reducing our time on social media apps and reminding ourselves about the reality behind this. We can also make a commitment to posting raw content to help combat the photoshopped nature of photos online.

Male Stereotypes

There is often a stereotype around men that they are 'too strong' to need medical attention. This can be detrimental to the health of many males if they do not get the medical attention required. Further to this, there can often be a stigma around men and mental health. Poor mental health is something that affects all people - men, women and non-binary people - and must be prioritised by everyone. Don't be afraid to speak to your doctor about your mental health - even when things are OK! Having positive conversations about mental health during annual check-ups can be a great way to start the conversation in the unfortunate instance that you may need mental health support later on down the track. If you know someone that is suffering in their mental health, have a chat to them about it and see if you can't remove some of the stigmas around mental health.

LGBTIQ+ Health

For people who identify as LGBTIQ+, it can sometimes be difficult to feel like the doctor's office is a place free of judgment. This is especially true for people who are only just beginning to struggle with their sexuality. Finding a good doctor can be hard for anyone, but it becomes increasingly complicated when there is a fear of judgment. A great way for people to find a doctor who will be supportive of them is to ask around social circles, including community message boards. It is also important to address this question with reception staff at the time of booking. All people deserve the same access to quality healthcare and sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a barrier.

Expectations on Performance

The gender pay gap and the burden of unpaid domestic work on women in employment also contribute to a discrepancy in health outcomes for men and women. The stress of juggling aspects of home and work life and performance requirements set out by managers for reduced pay than a male counterpart can affect a woman's mental and physical health. Self-care and mindfulness can assist in lowering stress levels - as well as having honest conversations with other family members about sharing the domestic workload. Furthermore, speaking to upper management about a pay rise to ensure you are on par with your male co-workers can help to relieve this stress and pressure.

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