In the following editorial, of which I give the last section, Marianne Legato is concerned that we are neglecting the health of men. In 2004, twice as much was spent on health studies for women as men. I feel some concern as I read this on her proposal of "an estrogen-like molecule to postpone the onset of coronary artery disease in susceptible males." My estrogen is now cut off. What does that do to my chances of heart disease?
I present her words, and pop you right into the tail end of her talk. I think you can catch up.
"It's possible, too, that we've simply been sexist. We've complained bitterly that until recently women's health was restricted to keeping breasts and reproductive organs optimally functional, reflecting the view that what made women valuable was their ability to conceive and bear children. But aren't we doing the same thing with men? Read the questions posed on the cover of men's magazines: how robust is your sexuality? How well-developed are your abs? The only malignancy I hear discussed with men is prostate cancer.
It's time to focus on the unique problems of men just the way we have learned to do with women. In 2004, the National Institutes of Health spent twice as much on studies done only on women as only on men. We are not devoting nearly enough money to men's health; worse yet, we may be spending those insufficient funds to answer exactly the wrong questions.
The National Institutes of Health should therefore convene a consensus conference to identify the most important threats to men's well-being and longevity and issue a request for research proposals to address them. Would an estrogen-like molecule postpone the onset of coronary artery disease in susceptible males? Are there ways to strengthen the male immune system?
Thinking about how we might correct the comparative vulnerability of men instead of concentrating on how we have historically neglected women's biology will doubtless uncover new ways to improve men's health — and ultimately, every human's ability to survive.
Marianne J. Legato, the director of the Partnership for Women's Health at Columbia, is the author of "Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget."