Tuesday, October 14, 2014

While NFL players wear pink, the myth and reality of gender-bias in health care goes largely unnoted

Every October, the NFL patronizes its female fan base—or rather, grudgingly submits to gender politics so as to demonstrate its “sensitivity” to gender issues. Football is a sport that is so “masculine” in its orientation that the NFL seems to feel it needs to “apologize” for it. There is no doubt in my mind that feminists and gender politicians find football one of the last “bastions” of male “dominance,” and there seems to be a desire to discover any new rationalization to break down the walls out of pure vindictiveness. 

How can any other view be sustained when football players are being held to a societal double standard when it comes to their due process rights? Do gender activists get a “kick” out of engaging in hypocrisy and destroying players’ livelihoods? I don’t see anything else. Even female commentators on ESPN, who generally do little but ask questions of the “experts” of the game, only seem to have strong opinions about such things as crimes and accusations made against players—especially if gender is involved.

Of course, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and NFL players are expected to wear something pink somewhere on their uniforms. It is interesting to note that these modern-day gladiators entertaining the masses who enjoy the violence of the game rarely, if ever, receive any concern or even acknowledgement from gender activists about the long-term physical (and mental) problems they are likely to experience after they leave the game. It is a fair question to ask why football players should be obliged by the league to be “sensitive” to advocacy groups who don’t give a rat’s fundament about their own just as serious issues. 

Since we are on the subject of breast cancer, it is interesting to note that there is this myth being perpetrated that there is a sex-bias against women in medical research and their health concerns. Frankly, my perception is that the opposite is true. In the news media, television and radio ads, it seems that women and/or their particular concerns are the principle target audience. This may be because women are more likely than men to seek medical attention, regardless if their issues are gender specific or not. On the other hand, because gender activists are more likely to perceive “bias” and the media does its part to posit this theme, there is this effort to increasingly focus research funding on female-specific health problems. This isn’t to say that this is “wrong” in and of itself. What is “wrong” is that gender politics too often interferes with the fair distribution of funding—either to non-gender specific or for male-specific research. 

For example, a 2006 study showed the National Cancer Institute alone spent almost $600 million on breast cancer research. This was more than the combined total for lung and colon cancer, which had more than five times the number of deaths that year than breast cancer. Another study that year showed that research for breast cancer that received non-NCI funding far outstripped other cancers by an even wider margin; that year, more than $26,000-per-death was spent on breast cancer research from all sources, compared to a little over $2,000-per-death for lung cancer. 

Breast cancer, since it is more obviously a gender-specific problem, is thus easier to politicize. It is also more likely than other major cancers to be “cured” if caught early; there is a 95 percent cure rate if done so. Cancers that have lower rates of survival (like lung and colon) are naturally of less “interest” to researchers.

While doing some web research, I encountered an old Atlantic Monthly piece from 1994, entitled “The Sex-Bias Myth in Medicine,” from the August, 1994 issue and written by Andrew G. Kadar, M.D.

Kadar quoted Bill Clinton in 1993: “When it comes to health-care research and delivery, women can no longer be treated as second-class citizens.” Along with Hillary Clinton, he hosted a breast cancer advocacy group conference, which Clinton offered his own support for increased breast cancer research funding, “decrying the neglect of medical care for women.” Kadar found that

“The list of accusations is long and startling. Women's-health-care advocates indict ‘sex-biased’ doctors for stereotyping women as hysterical hypochondriacs, for taking women's complaints less seriously than men's, and for giving them less thorough diagnostic workups. A study conducted at the University of California at San Diego in 1979 concluded that men's complaints of back pain, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, and headache more often resulted in extensive workups than did similar complaints from women. Hard scientific evidence therefore seemed to confirm women's anecdotal reports…The problem is said to be repeated in medical research: women, critics argue, are routinely ignored in favor of men…Perhaps the most emotionally charged disease for women is breast cancer. If a tumor devastated men on a similar scale, critics say, we would declare a state of national emergency and launch a no-cost-barred Apollo Project-style program to cure it. In the words of Matilda Cuomo, the wife of the governor of New York, ‘If we can send a woman to the moon, we can surely find a cure for breast cancer.’ The neglect of breast-cancer research, we have been told, is both sexist and a national disgrace.”

But Kadar found a different reality than what the media and activists were claiming. Even twenty years ago when this story was published, the reality was startling:

In fact one sex does appear to be favored in the amount of attention devoted to its medical needs. In the United States it is estimated that one sex spends twice as much money on health care as the other does. The NIH also spends twice as much money on research into the diseases specific to one sex as it does on research into those specific to the other, and only one sex has a section of the NIH devoted entirely to the study of diseases afflicting it. That sex is not men, however. It is women.

Advocacy groups like the American Medical Women's Association repeatedly cite discredited or out-dated data to claim that women’s medical problems are not taken as “seriously” as that of men. Yet the truth is that in more representative samplings (rather than the deliberately slanted) “the care received by men and women was similar about two thirds of the time. When the care was different, women overall received more diagnostic tests and treatment--more lab tests, blood-pressure checks, drug prescriptions, and return appointments.” Even in cases where the opposite may appear to be true—such as heart disease—any gender differences in treatment are due solely to factors that gender advocates seem to begrudge men. “When prescribing care for heart disease, doctors consider such factors as age, other medical problems, and the likelihood that the patient will benefit from testing and surgery. Coronary-artery disease afflicts men at a much younger age, killing them three times as often as women until age sixty-five.” 

Kadar also noted that for many medical issues, there was “sophisticated, pioneering technology selectively designed for the benefit of one sex”—meaning women. Other medical technology that benefitted women were “ultrasound…mammography, bone-density testing for osteoporosis, surgery to alleviate bladder incontinence, hormone therapy to relieve the symptoms of menopause, and a host of procedures, including in vitro fertilization, developed to facilitate impregnation. Perhaps so many new developments occur in women's health care because one branch of medicine and a group of doctors, gynecologists, are explicitly concerned with the health of women.” On the other hand, “No corresponding group of doctors is dedicated to the care of men.”

An oft-referred to 1987 NIH inventory of research funding found the “shocking” number of “only” 13.5 percent of research grants were applied to female-specific diseases. Less shocking, it seems, was that an even lesser percentage—6.5—was devoted to male-specific diseases. And even as the Clintons were engaging in political propaganda for their female “base,” the NCI was already spending 13 percent of its funding on breast cancer research, and it has only increased more as a percentage of its budget since then. The politicization of breast cancer research is such that funding for cervix and uterus cancer study combined was only 30 percent that of breast cancer—even though they represented 50 percent as many deaths.

Kadar also found that “neglect” for women-specific diseases was not necessarily true before it became politicized. “Until funding allocations for sex-specific concerns became a political issue, in the mid-1980s, the NCI did not track organ-specific spending data. The earliest information now available was reconstructed retroactively to 1981. Nevertheless, these early data provide a window on spending patterns in the era before political pressure began to intensify for more research on women. Each year from 1981 to 1985 funding for breast-cancer research exceeded funding for prostate cancer by a ratio of roughly five to one.”

Even the claim that in cases of asexual disease that men are supposedly more likely to be the subjects of research is not sustained. “The best-known and most ambitious study of cardiovascular health over time began in the town of Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1948. Researchers started with 2,336 men and 2,873 women aged thirty to sixty-two, and have followed the survivors of this group with biennial physical exams and lab tests for more than forty-five years. In this and many other observational studies women have been well represented.”

It was also noted that in 1920, men had a life expectancy one year longer than women; today, the longevity gap in favor of women is more than 10 percent. How does one explain this? Doesn’t more supportive health care have any part in this? Never count out the effect that ever more “sophisticated” victim myth propaganda techniques that gender advocates employ has:

“Age-adjusted mortality rates for men are higher for all twelve leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung disease (emphysema and pneumonia), liver disease (cirrhosis), suicide, and homicide. We have come to accept women's longer life span as natural, the consequence of their greater biological fitness. Yet this greater fitness never manifested itself in all the millennia of human history that preceded the present era and its medical-care system—the same system that women's-health advocates accuse of neglecting the female sex.” 

Kadar noted that in order to remedy this false notion of neglect, “an Office of Research on Women's Health was established by the NIH in 1990. In 1991 the NIH launched its largest epidemiological project ever, the Women's Health Initiative. Costing more than $600 million, this fifteen-year program will study the effects of estrogen therapy, diet, dietary supplements, and exercise on heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, osteoporosis, and other diseases in 160,000 postmenopausal women…What it will not do is close the ‘medical gender gap,’ the difference in the quality of care given the two sexes. The reason is that the gap does not favor men. As we have seen, women receive more medical care and benefit more from medical research. The net result is the most important gap of all: seven years, 10 percent of life.”

Some have observed that since women tend to be louder in their demands than men, and that they represent the larger percentage of the electorate, their concerns are naturally given greater attention by politicians.  In 2010, Dr. Otis Brawley—at the time the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society—also pointed out that “Funding parallels how many people go on clinical trials and we have had numerous attempts to do trials on prostate cancer, but since many urologists do not participate in them, money does not flow into the trials and they get shut down. Breast cancer is also thought of as a disease that might be more curable and more treatable, and so young scientists that are thinking about a career actually are drawn toward something that they might make inroads in.”

Will there ever be a truthful discussion of the impact of gender politicization has on issues of the day? That is unlikely, since the politicization only seems to grow more and more mendacious all the time.

No comments:

Post a Comment