Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gender Differences Seeking Health Care

Dr. Steven Lamm, author of the book, The Hardness Factor, writes a column on the Today portion of msnbc.com about the different attitudes between men and women seeking health care. Dr. Lamm writes, "After three decades of treating both sexes, I have concluded that many men simply don’t think to put doctor visits on their “to do” lists. They look upon going to a physician as some undesirable form of pampering, no matter how sick they are. In general, men are not all that good at taking care of their health, probably because they have not grown up with periodic medical exams. "

There is no doubt that women seek health care earlier and more often then men. As a former college health provider, I would easily see 4 female patients to every 1 male patient. While Dr. Lamm attributes this difference to the "traditional masculine pattern," to which I largely agree, I have additional food for thought. Perhaps men aren't encouraged enough to bring up their concerns or when they do, they are minimized by their male providers. According to gender statistics from a 2006 AMA survey, there are roughly 665,000 male physicians to 256,000 female physicians. Could this "traditional masculine pattern" carryover to the provider side too?

I think the take home for providers is that we be more cognizant (other than the obvious) gender differences between men and women seeking care. The take home for patients, male or female, is that if your provider isn't adequately assessing your needs and concerns, don't be afraid to ask or seek another opinion.

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