As widespread as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been, there are differences reporters need to understand — and those sex- and gender-based differences aren’t unique to the way this pandemic has played out. They’re apparent in many other aspects of health.
That was the big takeaway from Wednesday’s AHCJ webcast, hosted by independent journalist Michele Cohen Marill. Panelists were:
- Louise McCullough, M.D., Ph.D., the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington distinguished chair of neurology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and chief of neurology at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center;
- Sara Ghandehari, M.D., a pulmonologist and director of pulmonary rehabilitation in the Women’s Guild Lung Institute at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles;
- Psychologist Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D., the Norma Weinberg Spungen and Joan Lebson Bildner Professor in Women’s Health Research and director of Women’s Health Research at Yale.
McCullough laid the foundation for the conversation by explaining the difference between sex and gender this way: Sex is biological, while gender is about your perception or society’s perception of your sex.
In terms of the physical impact of COVID-19, men tend to experience more devastating disease and have a higher risk of mortality, while women are more likely to have long-haul symptoms. But there are gender differences when it comes to the impact of the pandemic on mental health, Mazure pointed out, which are related to the kind of work women do within and outside the household.
“If you don’t look for sex differences you won’t find them, but they’re there,” McCullough said.
Panelists agreed that highlighting sex differences in health reporting is crucial. “We cannot allow this to be dropped. We have to raise awareness,” Mazure said.