WHAMglobal Shifts Focus to Women’s Health Inequality in Older Age; Welcomes New Board Members

Seventeen new members were welcomed to the WHAMglobal Board.

WHAMglobal was designed to concentrate on an area of women's health for a period of time, drive and hopefully document significant progress, and then address another area in need of the same attention and action. On Thursday, March 23, the WHAMglobal board convened to focus on a new topic, Women's Health Inequity in Older Age.

An exceptional cohort of leaders in the women's health agreed, "Women face many biases based on gender stereotypes, and these have an even greater effect on their health as they age."

During the meeting, different dimensions of this issue were explored. Women were excluded from research for many decades, during which landmark studies established treatment standards still used today; therefore, there is a dearth of information about how women, especially older women, may be treated successfully for common conditions. In addition, medical biases about gender and age can determine a provider's reaction to physical and emotional pain, resulting in longer wait times in emergency rooms and the over prescribing of psychotropics and sedatives, for instance.

In a survey of U.S. OB/GYN residents, only 20% receive training in the physiology, effects, and treatment of menopause. Medical school curriculum is too often informed by the body of a 154-pound man. While the U.S. reflects both biases and research gaps in policy and practice, the problem is felt worldwide. In countries with universal health care, older women tend to have more consistent access to medical care; however, the lack of data-driven recommendations for the care of older women creates problems globally. Compared to men, women are: Two-times as likely to suffer (or be diagnosed with) a generalized anxiety disorder; two-times as likely to develop depression at some point in their lives; more than twice as likely to develop PTSD; more likely to attempt suicide; and, concerning, is that older women are 40% less likely to seek mental health treatment than younger women. Additionally, in the U.S. more than 10 million women are either living with a form of dementia or are caring for someone with dementia. These statistics are particularly unsettling as women live longer than men; as a result, they experience more comorbid, chronic health conditions, financial risks, and have to face these setbacks alone.

Members of the board discussed the caregiver fatigue women often experience and how it impacts their own care, and how older women are often reluctant to advocate themselves for more appropriate, sensitive, and effective care.

During the meeting, Debra Caplan, WHAMglobal and JHF board chair, welcomed 16 new board members, including:

  • Mercé Boada Rovira, MD, PhD, Co-founder and Medical Director (CMO), Ace Alzheimer Center Barcelona;
  • Jamile Camacho, MD, Professor of Surgery and Breast Pathology, Universidad Del Desarrollo, Clinica Alemana;
  • Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, PhD, RN, FAAN, Dean Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh;
  • Cindy Hounsell, JD, president, Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER);
  • Amanda H. Lenhard, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine, Chief of Medicine, UPMC Shadyside, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine;
  • Della Lin, MS, MD, FASA, anesthesiologist, Board of Directors, Anesthesiology Patient Safety Foundation;
  • Kathryn M. McDonald, PhD, MM, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Health Systems, Quality and Safety, Johns Hopkins University;
  • Judith A. Monroe, MD, president and CEO, CDC Foundation;
  • Julianne M. Morath, BSN, MS, CPPS, affiliate faculty, Department of General Internal Medicine, University of Washington, advisor and consultant in Quality, Safety and Leadership, former president and CEO HQI;
  • Beverly Morrow, MCHES, retired, TLM Management;
  • Anne B. Newman, MD, MPH, chair in geroscience, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine;
  • Valerie Njie, MS, president, Pitt Alumni Association, University of Pittsburgh;
  • Judith Reichman, MD, obstetrician-gynecologist, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center;
  • Lisa Simpson, MB, BCh, MPH, FAAP, president and chief executive officer, AcademyHealth;
  • Terry W. Starz, MD, clinical professor of medicine, Division of Rheumatology & Clinical Immunology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Returning members were also welcomed, including: Nadene Alhadeff, CEO, Mum for Mum at the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia; Carolyn Clancy, MD, assistant deputy under secretary for health for discovery, education and affiliate networks, Veterans Health Administration; Susan Greenspan, MD, professor of endocrinology and geriatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Cindy Hounsell, JD, president, Institute for a Secure Retirement; Wendy Leonard, MD, AAHIVS, executive director, TIP Global Health; Sue Matthews, RN, MHScN, DPH, CEO, Royal Women's Hospital Melbourne; Usha Raj, Anjuli S. Nayak Professor of Pediatrics, University of Illinois at Chicago; Fleur Sack, MD, family physician, Fleur S. Sack LLC; Chen Shapira, MD, cofounder and chief medical officer, Quai.MD; and Laurie Zephyrin, MD, MPH, MBA, vice president, Health Care Delivery System Reform, The Commonwealth Fund New York.

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