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How virtual care empowers women with their health

March 4, 2022 • read

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How virtual care empowers women with their health

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of girls and women. It’s an occasion to reflect on the progress that has been made towards achieving gender equality and raise awareness of the challenges women still face today. Every year, International Women’s Day helps bring attention to important, long-standing issues such as violence against women and reproductive rights. 

International Women’s Day owes its origins to labour movements in North America and Europe during the early 20th century. Today, it’s celebrated in more than 100 countries, and an official holiday in more than 25. The theme for this year’s global International Women’s Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias. It invites us to imagine a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive, a world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Breaking the bias in healthcare

For years, medical research has focused heavily on men rather than women, although progress on this front is slowly being made. But why is this so important? Because there are significant differences in how women and men experience health conditions. And yet, some societies still aren’t meeting the health needs of women.

Women’s health issues, such as reproductive health, are responsible for one-third of health issues for women between the ages of 15 to 44 years old. This means that something that should be simple, like getting the right type of birth control, is still a problem for many women, especially in developing countries

While improvements have been made, maternal health issues — the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postnatal — are also a cause for concern. Women are at risk of excessive blood clots, unsafe abortion, high blood pressure, and more. Something as simple as proper medical care can prevent all of these things. 

And that’s not all. Certain cancers, such as breast and cervical cancers, where early prevention is key, are often overlooked. Mental health studies show that women are more prone to depression than men. Even the gender gap for heart disease, with women being diagnosed on average between seven to 10 years later than men, proves that we still have a ways to go. 

However, there’s no time like the present. Breaking the bias in healthcare could help women live longer, healthier lives. 

Health tips for women

While our society continues to work towards reducing the gender gap in healthcare, here are 10 ways women in your organization can take their health into their own hands:

1. Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle

One of the first things women should check off their preventative health list is to start maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. This means making small daily changes such as preparing lunches at home using whole foods, fruits, and vegetables, limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, and exercising for at least 30 minutes per day. 

Research shows women who do all of those listed above are 80% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. A healthy diet for women should also always include plenty of calcium to help prevent osteoporosis, one of the leading causes of fractures in postmenopausal women. 

2. Listening to their body

It’s not uncommon for women to lose sight of their health because they’re so focused on their loved ones, they forget about their own well-being. The body is a magical thing — paying closer attention to it might help women notice something that seems off. While not all health concerns have obvious warning signs early on, many do. Something that might seem small could in fact be a warning sign for blood clots, breast cancer, or other health issues. 

Cardiovascular disease, for example, kills more than seven times as many Canadian women as breast cancer each year, yet signs are often overlooked. One of the main reasons for this? Women are more likely to ignore the signs of a heart attack because it’s viewed as a “man’s disease”. Women should learn the general signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women so they can listen to their bodies and be proactive about their health. 

3. Being their own advocate

One of the many frustrating parts of women’s health history is the disbelief of women’s symptoms. While men are often hailed as brave for dealing with chronic pain, women can be viewed as “emotional” or “hysterical”. This can have a devastating impact on their health, making it even more important they become their own advocate. 

If a woman has a family history of certain diseases such as breast cancer, they should ask for a referral for a mammogram. Or, if they need a method of contraception, they should ask about birth control options and side- effects. Unless there’s a valid health reason from a provider as to why what a woman is inquiring about isn’t recommended, women should listen to their body — and their gut — and not be afraid to advocate for anything pertaining to their health. 

4. Taking notes

It’s so important for women to be self-aware and prepared for medical appointments. Bringing notes helps women track their health and notice patterns they might not have seen before. Health notes also give women the opportunity to mention everything of concern, without forgetting anything. And, the extra information is helpful for healthcare providers, too, as it can allow them to spot symptoms, notice patterns, and help their patients get better.

5. Asking questions

Patients who aren’t themselves healthcare providers likely don’t know the ins and outs of certain conditions and treatments. To better advocate for their health, women shouldn’t feel afraid to ask all the questions they have. Where can patients learn more valid information about a certain health condition, and what are the benefits and side-effects of a recommended treatment? Knowledge is power, and asking questions can help empower women.

6. Getting a second opinion

This might feel uncomfortable for women at first, especially if the first opinion came from their regular healthcare provider. However, getting a second opinion can help women make better decisions about their health, and is also a good way to prevent misdiagnosis. Getting a second opinion can simply help women make better-informed decisions about their health.

7. Keeping a record of family medical history

For women, knowing their family’s health history can help identify if they have a higher chance of certain health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, or high blood pressure. It’s important to note that one family member having a certain health condition doesn’t mean all women in that family will necessarily have it, too. However, knowing family health history can help women stay on top of potential health risks and take preventative measures if needed. 

8. Scheduling preventative check-ups

It’s a good idea for women to get preventative check-ups annually. These types of appointments provide a comprehensive view of a person’s health and can help identify risk factors and conditions before they become more serious. Preventative check-ups can help women stay healthy and give them peace of mind, knowing they’re aware of everything going on in their bodies. 

9. Managing stress

Managing stress levels is crucial for overall health. Stress has been called a silent killer for good reason — chronic stress has been linked to depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes in women, and more. 

For people of all walks of life, taking small steps to lower their stress levels can help their overall health outcomes in the long run. If their employer offers mental wellness days, women shouldn’t feel afraid to use them to take time off work for their mental health. Doing everything they can to reduce stress can be extremely beneficial to their health. 

10. Leaning on their support system

Lastly, women shouldn’t hesitate to lean on their family for support if they have a health condition, or for motivation to lead a healthier life. They can also lean on friends or join a community of people online who may be going through the same challenges as them. Openly discussing issues and receiving support is comforting and can greatly help women take care of their mental and physical health. 

How Maple empowers women with their health

Easy access to proper medical care can make a world of difference for women, their family, and even their community as a whole

A virtual care platform like Maple removes obstacles and breaks down barriers of accessibility by allowing patients to consult a Canadian-licensed general practitioner in minutes from their phone, tablet, or computer at any time, 24/7. With no travelling time required for a virtual visit, women also don’t have to play Tetris with their schedules, wondering how they can squeeze a doctor’s appointment into their calendar, or miss work just to go see a doctor in person. 

Removing obstacles to access care helps women be proactive about their health. Actively managing their sexual health, for example, shouldn’t be taboo. A platform like Maple also makes it easy for women to get a second opinion — as mentioned in our 10 health tips above — in a convenient and timely manner. If a woman is unsure their family doctor has provided enough information or the right diagnosis, a second opinion can be just a few taps away.

While this may sound simple, it can have important repercussions. For example, research by the American Journal of Managed Care showed that 65% of women with chronic pain believed their physician wasn’t taking their pain seriously enough, while 45% of women believed they were viewed as “chronic complainers” instead of human beings with needs. 

According to a study by Harvard University, women in pain are less likely to promptly receive medication. Over time, improperly treated chronic pain can lead to employees going on disability leave or exiting the workforce entirely. Research by Statistics Canada demonstrated that for women, regardless of education levels, having a chronic condition reduces the probability of having a job.

Finally, a virtual care platform helps employers support their team with their health no matter where they’re located in Canada, whether they live in a busy urban centre or a more remote area. Unfortunately, access to care still varies greatly from one province to another. A Statistics Canada survey showed that only 15% of women in Nunavut and 40% of women in the Northwest Territories reported having a regular doctor. In Quebec, that percentage was 81%, compared with 94% for Ontario and 96% for Nova Scotia. 

A virtual solution, therefore, is well-positioned to support an increasingly remote, distributed workforce, with uneven access to care.

Carefully considering the health needs of women

As employers continue to look for new ways to deliver impactful benefit programs to their employees, carefully considering the health needs of women on your team can be a great way to identify potential areas of improvement. A virtual care platform empowers women with their health and can help them address many of the issues mentioned in this article. 

For International Women’s Day this year, we invite you to lead the charge and discuss within your organization new strategies to support women’s health issues. If you’d like to speak with one of our experts on how to bring your employee benefits to the next level, please reach out. We’d be happy to share our insights with you as Canada’s leading provider of virtual care.

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