The CoR Interregional Group on Health and Well-being (IRGHW) returned to meet physically on 30 June 2022 after more than two years. The event was an occasion for the members of the Interregional Group to deep dive into the topic of gender and health and the underlying inequality challenge, thanks to the participation of Dorota Sienkiewicz, Senior Policy Coordinator, EuroHealthNet, Hendrik Van Poppel, Chair of the EU Policy Office at the European Association of Urology, and Co-chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Inequalities Network, and Fulvia Signani and Flavia Franconi, Members of the Center of Studies on Gender Medicine, University of Ferrara (IT).
Dorota Sienkiewicz opened the event by giving an overview of the state of play, trends and main challenges in gender and health in the EU from a public health perspective. Gender plays a specific role in the incidence and prevalence of specific pathologies, their treatment, and their impact on well-being and recovery. Research shows that, in Europe, men have shorter life expectancies and higher mortality rates than women, but women report higher morbidity. This is due to the interrelations between sex-related biological differences and socioeconomic and cultural factors. Ms. Sienkiewicz underlined that there are significant differences in the experience across and within countries, also at the community level, and there is no ‘one size approach fits all’ approach but a European strategic vision may help in addressing these challenges. She presented some of EuroHealthNet’s latest initiatives focused on gender and health, such as the Policy Precis “Making the link – gender equality and health” (2021). Ms. Sienkiewicz concluded her speech by presenting some recommended actions, especially the need for an integrated and holistic approach that addresses gender equality across all policies.
Prof. Van Poppel tightened the focus on the issue of gender in cancer, especially in the prevention field, sharing the recent work of the European Cancer Organisation’s Inequalities Network. After showing the incidence and mortality in the EU-27 for different types of cancers, Prof. Van Poppel touched upon the differences between men and women regarding awareness, screening, diagnosis, and survivorship. Men are less aware and less inclined to participate in cancer screening than women, resulting in fewer early diagnoses. Prof. Van Poppel focused part of his presentation on prostate cancer, the first or second deadly cancer for men, stressing the lack of attention to early detection and screening programmes. Among the social groups to be targeted, Prof. Van Poppel brought the issue of transgender people and gender non-conforming people, which still suffer discrimination in healthcare. Prof. Van Poppel commented on improving men’s cancer care throughout the entire care pathway, particularly concerning prevention and early detection.
Prof. Signani and Prof. Franconi presented the case of the Center of Studies on Gender Medicine of the University of Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna Region, the only university center on Gender Medicine in Italy. Particular attention was paid to the inclusion of sex-gender approaches in medical education and the appropriateness of treatment. Gender Medicine (GM) considers women and men (and possibly other gender identities) as target groups for prevention, disease symptoms, treatment, and rehabilitation through a gender-sensitive and intersectional approach. The Professors presented the case of Italy and, more specifically, of the Emilia-Romagna Region. Among the initiatives, the Center launched a proposal for sex- and gender-based approaches mainstreaming in the medical education programs of the Italian universities. Finally, they stressed some challenges in implementing GM at the national level, such as ensuring the application of GM in the most rapid and uniform way within the country and presented some of the main current obstacles in research and GM implementation.