Gender Medicine is not about women’s health, but about the differences between both sexes, with regard to prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
It was created with the aim of understanding the mechanisms through which gender-related differences affect health status, disease onset, disease course and treatment outcomes. As a second – but not insignificant – objective, there was also that of overcoming the purely “androcentric” connotation of the study of medicine.
It is – therefore – a transversal dimension to all disciplines of medicine. It concerns the study of biological differences between the sexes and more specifically gender differences, linked to social, economic and cultural conditions, and – as a direct consequence – their influence on the state of health and illness, in terms of prevention, symptomatology, therapy and prognosis, psychological and social impact.
The aforementioned gender differences do indeed affect the frequency, symptomatology and even severity of certain diseases, response to treatment and adverse reactions to drugs, nutritional needs, responses to nutrients and chemicals in the environment, as well as lifestyles, exposure to toxic elements and access to treatment.
Knowledge of gender differences therefore promotes greater protection of health and appropriateness in care.
Focus: the heart
For a long time, diseases related to the heart have been considered mainly related to men, but this is not the case.
Thirty years of research in the field of cardiovascular disease have provided some fundamentally important elements (such as, for example, an awareness of how biological sex and gender-specific behaviour influence heart disease) for better diagnosis and treatment in both women and men. A growing knowledge of cardiovascular health in women, as well as prevention campaigns, use an understanding of gender to promote healthy and – as a counterpart – risky behaviour.
Monasterio for Gender Medicine
Gender Medicine and Health, as it is easy to guess, constitutes a very recent approach to the study of pathologies and, at the same time, represents a topic of investigation and concrete debate in all areas of modern society.
The space for reflection and study is extremely broad. The potentials and effects are still far from being fully deployed.
From this point of view, the Region of Tuscany has been promoting and supporting Gender Medicine for some time now, also as a contribution to the appropriateness of healthcare provision.
The Monasterio Foundation is a very special facility, set up by the Region of Tuscany and the National Research Council, with the particular mission of being a specialised centre of clinical innovation. At the Monasterio there is a very high degree of multidisciplinarity, with daily collaboration in the clinical, technical and research fields, of different professionals: clinicians, physicists, biologists, physiologists, bioengineers, statisticians, computer scientists, nurses and health technicians.
In addition, the work of interpreting the data in relation to the gender difference is facilitated by the complete computerisation of the clinical data of the patients within the Monasterio.
At the Pisa and Massa sites, in collaboration with researchers from the CNR Institute of Clinical Physiology – a privileged partner for clinical research activities – the staff discuss various topics in the field of Gender Medicine, drawing from their clinical experience and the studies carried to spark comparison, reflection and even the definition of clinical pathways.
Hospital Coordination of Gender Medicine at the Monasterio was established with the task of stimulating the culture of Gender Health throughout the sector, among both health and non-health staff, and to encourage scientific and clinical discussion on a topic that is bound to attract increasing interest. Over the years, this discussion has resulted in targeted clinical pathways and publications in scientific journals.
Specifically, alongside the clinical pathways already in operation, three new multidisciplinary clinical-diagnostic-therapeutic pathways have been identified (in recent years): “Gender differences in haemoglobinopathies”, “Female health and prevention: the cardio-metabolic risk in the different hormonal phases of a woman’s life”, “Gender differences in the personalisation of care in the complex elderly patient: multidimensional assessment of frailty, comorbidity and disability”.