Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Health Care Women Int. 1986;7(3):255-75.

Women's health from a woman's point of view: a review of the literature.



The literature on the current health problems of women is reviewed, clarifying the conditions and updating present knowledge of women's health within the context of medical and social research. Both medical professionals and women have begun to address women's health issues with 4 major issues receiving particular emphasis: the charge that physicians fail to take women's complaints seriously; the allegation that the population of women is being drugged; the accusation that women experience excessive surgical procedures; and the notion that sexism is inherent in American medical education. Focus on these issues is not the answer. Women, individually and collectively, need to clarify issues of women's health within the context of modern research and understanding. The literature is reviewed in the categories of prepubescent females, adolescence and the young woman, women's reproductive lives, life styles of the middle years, external and internal abuse, and aged women. The estimated annual occurrence of 60,000-100,000 cases of incest and/or sexual abuse among prepubescent females makes it a women's health issue of serious dimension. The victims are overwhelmingly female with a ratio of 10 females to 1 male child. Appetite disorders, known as patharexia, are a major public health problem of female adolescents. After depression, they represent the most common emotional illness among young girls and women. Anorexia nervosa, bulimarexia, and bulimia all are characterized by body image and distortion and the victim's obsessive desire to be thin. A more conforming, but still inappropriately adapted, response to social expectations for women is teen pregnancy. Teenagers who decide to have their babies often are those with the fewest options. Voluntary childlessness, late age childbirth, and issues of reproductive freedom are having social, political, and economic impact on the lives of all women. The prevailing social context of sexism and inequality contributes to the origin and persistence of problems of women patients, as demonstrated by the correlation between subordinate group status and mental health. Many changes have been initiated as a result of pressure from individual women and from the women's health care movement. For example, medical schools are reforming their training in values, ethics, and human relations. Women have begun to assume more control over their own lives and well being. Women's groups such as the Boston Women's Health Collective have set the pattern for a proliferation of self-help manuals available to the general readership. Recent media attention has focused on such women's health issues as family violence, incest, and battering. Women have challenged the medical professionals in their treatments, and medical professionals need to see beyond individual symptoms to the context of illness in women. Complete health for women can be a new model for other social movements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Support Center