Written by Alison Turner
Charlotte Cordonnier, MD. PhD. is Professor of Neurology and a Vice President of the European Stroke Organisation, as well as the founding member of the Women Initiative for Stroke in Europe (WISE), made up of female researchers and clinicians, examines the gap in stroke care for men and women in Europe.
Our sex dictates the biology of our bodies – that much is clear. Male, female or other, our chromosomes determine what hormones will swirl around inside us, and how our body parts will develop. Male bodies are more vulnerable to certain diseases than female, and vice versa. But often, not for any biological reason, being male or female is a key that allows us access to, or control over, resources and decisions, because gender norms dictate our behaviour.
Gender norms are also influencing our health. Girls may receive different or inadequate education, for example, leaving them unable to make informed health choices. Or perhaps it is the norm that men should smoke or drink heavily. In some cases, a woman may feel that her peers expect her to put the needs of her children before her own health, so she won’t take time for a health screening. Men may believe it is not socially acceptable to prioritise their mental health. These expectations from society that men and women should behave in a certain way, or should not have access to health options, can expose us to different health risks. If we can improve our understanding of both biological differences and differences resulting from gender norms, we can be better equipped to address disease and ill-health. (more…)