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In the News

Monday, January 8, 2001

U.S. government breaks its promise of gender equality

(Via the Daily Bruin, University of California, Los Angeles)

MEN: Female health care receives precedence, more funding than male needs

By Marc Angelucci
Angelucci is a law student and the co-founder of MENS (Men Enabling New Solutions). He invites comments at angelucc@2000.law.ucla.edu.

As we break our new year resolutions regarding our health long before Superbowl Sunday, it sometimes helps to know others are also breaking them with regard to their own health. But did you know the U.S. government routinely breaks its own commitment to your health, especially if you're a male?

Men in the United States live an average of six years less than women and have a higher death rate for each of the top 10 leading causes of death. They are twice as likely as women to be receiving no regular health care (23.2 percent vs. 11.9 percent, respectively), and men under 65 are less likely than women to even have health insurance with which they can receive such care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Yet, the National Institute of Health has dismally failed to live up to its commitment to gender equality in health funding that it made in the Revitalization Act of 1993. Why? Because of feminist-driven demands to remedy years of illusory inequalities.

For example, in 1990, the Congressional Women's Caucus went wild over a report showing that under 14 percent of NIH funds went to female-specific illnesses, even though only 7 percent of the funds went to male-specific illnesses.

NIH caved in, forming an Office of Women's Health without an equivalent Office of Men's Health, and claimed it was "in response to a report by the U.S. General Accounting Office ... that women were routinely excluded from medical research supported by the NIH."

A review of the GAO report reveals no such statement, other than an anecdotal example of an all-male study and a subsequent conclusion that there is no readily-accessible data on NIH study demographics. In fact, Dr. Sally Satel of Yale University, national syndicate Cathy Young, and others have recently shown this claim to be false.

Even the prestigious Institute of Medicine recently admitted that the "literature is inconclusive about whether women have been excluded or importantly underrepresneted in clinical trials," (New England Journal of Medicine, 1999; 341).

Yet politicians still make this false claim to justify the systematic neglect of men's health, a neglect that is harming more and more men and their loved ones every year.

In 1999, female-specific health received 15.5 percent of NIH funds while male-specific health received 6.4 percent. Only 37.1 percent of participants in extramural research were men (down from 45 percent in 1994), and NIH had 740 female-only studies but only 244 male-only studies in progress, according to the General Accounting Office.

The claim that women were significantly underrepresented can be debunked with a simple search using Medline, the best-known database for published medical research (http://igm.nlm.nih.gov/). A search of the period 1966-1990 for clinical trials (a more rigorous type of research than case reports) on leading causes of death and other conditions commonly researched at NIH (for which at least five trials are reported) shows that 753 trials included men and 854 included women.

Of the diseases that commonly affect both sexes, the only ones with a significantly higher number of male subjects were heart attacks (59 men, 37 women) and heart disease (137 men, 78 women). As Dr. Ed Bartlett of Men's Health America explains, it makes scientific sense to first study a population that is more commonly affected, and men under 65 are three times more likely to have heart attacks than women.

In fact, during the same period, men were underrepresented as subjects in cancer-related trials, even though they suffer from cancer at higher rates than women (Boston Globe, Nov. 15, 2000).

The Medline search showing equal representation is supported by other data as well. For example, of the 293 clinical studies in the 1979 NIH Inventory of Clinical Trials, 91 percent included both men and women, while the rest consisted of 12 male-only and 12 female-only studies. (Women and Health Research, Vol. I, 1994). But as activists began claiming women were underrepresented, things worsened for men, and by 1997, there were 203 women-only studies but only 90 men-only studies. (Applied Clinical Trials 1997; 6).

These are not strictly examining female-only conditions. A list of the 1997 studies reveals hundreds of female-only studies on things commonly affecting men, such as AIDS, cancer prevention, chronic lung disease and Alzheimer's.

But the anti-male bias is most blaring when it comes to prostate and breast cancer. While the yearly diagnoses and deaths are about equal, the National Cancer Institute spent $92.7 million on breast cancer but only $13.8 million on prostate research in 1991. Then, by 1999, breast cancer funds jumped to $366 million while prostate cancer remained at a measly $96 million (www.nci.nih.gov/public/factbk97/varican.htm).

It gets worse. A September 1997 report in Men's Health shows the Department of Defense spent $455 million on breast cancer but only $20 million on prostate cancer. And, according to the American Foundation of Urologic Disease, the government overall spends $3,000 per breast cancer diagnosis and $12,000 per death in the U.S. (men make 1 percent of patients) while only spending $250 per prostate cancer diagnosis and $2,000 per death.

This is not, as some claim, a remediation of past bias. From 1981 to 1991 (before nationwide breast cancer activism), NCI spent $658 million on breast cancer but only $113 million on prostate cancer.

How do they get away with these lies and hurt so many men and their loved ones? As national syndicate Cathy Young points out, the failure of men and women to speak up against anti-male bias and distortions about health care inequalities (and other issues) gave activists a "free ride" in the media for years.

What can you do? Write your reps and support the Men's Health Act (SB 2925), which will create a badly-needed Office of Men's Health. Demand that UCLA offer men's studies courses, like that taught by Dr. Martin Fiebert at Cal State Long Beach, to help men learn about themselves apart from role-enforcing history books and feminist distortions about them. Read Warren Farrell (warrenfarrell.com), and keep informed with frequent visits to www.mensactivism.org.

Meanwhile, don't follow our government's example � fulfill your resolutions. Make your amends. Eat your veggies. And be sure to rinse them down with some good Chianti. To your health, of course.