Carrying the burden for all-Prairie Doc 5-1-13

Posted May 1, 2013 at 8:00 am

Why has the health care industry turned so much marketing attention to women?

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First, women seek out medical care for themselves more often than men. Some would suggest this is due to the role women play in having babies and the medical relationships that are established to do that wonderful reproductive role. Therefore, it is no surprise her medical connections with a health care provider continue through her lifetime.

And there are more reasons than having babies that draw middle-aged women to the doctor or other health care provider. In 2004 the Kaiser Women’s Health Survey interviewed 2,800 women and found that while one in 10 women of reproductive age (18 to 44) say they have arthritis, hypertension, asthma, or another medical condition, three in 10 have similar problems after reaching their middle years (45-64,) and six in 10 after reaching 65. The US Department of Labor states that women utilize more health care than men, accounting for 60 percent of all expenses incurred at doctors’ offices.

However, it’s not just her own health problems that impact her life. We also know that, about 80 percent of the time, women are the family health care decision-makers and are more likely to be the care givers when a family member falls ill. Not always, but more often the mother chooses the child’s doctor or provider, makes the appointment, brings the child to the clinic or hospital, and then makes sure follow-up care happens.

And very often she not only coordinates this for her children, but also for her husband, and for her-and-his elderly frail parents. The Kaiser study found 12 percent of women, compared to 8 percent of men, care for a sick or aging relative. We are talking not only providing housework, transportation, and financial decisions, but also administering pills and shots, bathing and dressing and often giving up many hours a week to bring health care to others.

No wonder they are marketing to the woman in her middle years!

More important, however, if we are providing medical care for her, we also have to realize how she often carries the medical burden of her whole family.

Dr. Rick Holm wrote this Prairie Doc Perspective for “On Call,” a weekly program where medical professionals discuss health concerns for the general public.  “On Call” is produced by the Healing Words Foundation in association with the South Dakota State University Journalism Department. “On Call” airs Thursdays on South Dakota Public Broadcasting-Television at 7 p.m. Central. Visit

Carrying the burden for all