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July 11th is World Population Day, a day during which we focus on issues that affect the worldwide population. In 2023, the theme was Gender Equality. When it comes to healthcare, women are disproportionately relied on in roles of caregivers, meaning that oftentimes peoples’ access to healthcare is reliant on female caregivers.[1] When race and ethnicity are considered, these disparities in quality and accuracy of healthcare are even more severe.

Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed or have later diagnoses due to unequal gender norms in healthcare. When it comes to dizziness, women are more likely to experience BPPV (vertigo) [2], Meniere’s Disease[3], and vestibular dysfunction related dizziness.[4] Achieving gender equality in healthcare means that we have to consciously promote and fight for gender equity. As PAHO puts it, “Equity is the means, equality is the result.”

Equity in healthcare entails recognizing that humans are diverse and cannot be treated with cookie cutter approaches. Details that should be considered are sex assigned at birth, gender identity, age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and other aspects of a human’s identity.

For example, someone who is born female may be at a higher risk of vestibular related dizziness and therefore females might benefit from more vestibular diagnostic testing. People who have received lower levels of education may require more time spent with patient education to make sure that they understand their condition thoroughly. Someone who has a disability may need extra resources to get to their appointments. Allowing for these differences allows for everyone to receive the best care possible.

Everyone should feel empowered to make their own decisions with healthcare. If you are feeling dizzy or imbalanced, you are allowed to choose your course of action. We at 360 believe that one of the tenants of empowerment is patient education. If you do not understand your diagnosis or a facet of your treatment, please ask your clinician. We know that we give a lot of patient information, so make sure that you ask questions. We are happy to repeat information or clarify information if it helps you. All healthcare providers should do the same.

Are you dizzy or off balance and don’t know where to start? The best place is always at the beginning: go to your Primary Care Physician or General Practitioner. They will be able to give you a direction. It might involve an ENT, which is an Ear Nose Throat doctor, or a neurologist, which is a doctor that specializes in the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. They might want to do testing such as an MRI, which can take pictures of both the hard and soft structures of the body, or an angiogram, which maps out your veins and arteries. They might want to take blood tests to make sure your minerals and blood panels are within health limits. Sometimes they might recommend physical therapy for strengthening or to help with dizziness and imbalance. If you feel like you might benefit from a specialist, testing, or physical therapy, you are also able to request referrals for any of these services from your doctor!

We are all equal, but we are not all the same. Diversity is what makes our society interesting and unique. Everyone deserves the best level of healthcare, which means that individuals need to feel empowered to advocate for ourselves and facilities need to support empowerment. If you feel like you’re confused as to where to go and which questions to ask, we’re here to help.

[1] Pan American Health Organization, retrieved on 7/3/2024 from: https://www.paho.org/en/topics/gender-equality-health

[2] Ciorba A, Cogliandolo C, Bianchini C, et al. Clinical features of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo of the posterior semicircular canal. SAGE Open Medicine. 2019;7..

[3] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), retrieved on 7/3/2024 from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menieres-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20374910#:~:text=Meniere’s%20disease%20is%20most%20common,you%20have%20an%20autoimmune%20disorder.

[4] Min Youn G, Shah JP, Agrawal Y, Wei EX. Vestibular Vertigo and Disparities in Healthcare Access Among Adults in the United States. Ear Hear. 2023 Sep-Oct 01;44(5):1029-1035. doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000001344. Epub 2023 Mar 15. PMID: 36920251; PMCID: PMC10440212.