“Women are 2x more likely to experience chronic pain than men yet their reports of pain are also more likely to be dismissed” (2) …let that sink in for a minute.
Ashley Freeborn, co-founder of Smash + Tess, knows this all to well as she experienced pain and the horrible symptoms of Crohn’s disease for years before getting diagnosed or treatment. (Read more about her experience with Crohn’s disease in her Reason to Romp.) Even thought she visited various specialists and had countless visits to the hospital, she was told she likely had a form of indigestion and needed more pillows to keep her head elevated to alleviate the unexplained nausea.
The problem was that Ashley and the health issues she was experiencing were not taken seriously. In fact, according to the Health Gap, "70% of patients with 'medically unexplained symptoms' are women and they are often incorrectly assigned to a psychological origin.” Ashley and most women, are not taken FOR REAL.
To shine a light on the need to invest in women’s health, advocacy, research and education, Smash + Tess is partnering with the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation!
On Friday, March 8th at 8am PST, we’ll be celebrating International Women’s Day with the launch of our limited-edition For Real Sunday Romper. It’s a fresh new colour with an embroidered message that you’ll love to rock. All net proceeds from the For Real Sunday Romper will be donated to B.C. Women’s Hospital Foundation in support of women’s health research.
We sat down with Genesa Greening, President & CEO of the BC Women's Hospital Foundation to learn more about her and the incredible work she’s doing to raise awareness about the inadequacies of the health care system for women.
Tell us about your background and role at BC Women’s Hospital Foundation?
My past work has always been connected, in some way, to broken systems.
I’ve worked for social justice organizations and non-profits addressing issues of poverty and racial injustice (both here in Vancouver and in the states) for quite some time now.
I accepted the role of President + CEO of BC Women’s Hospital Foundation... just over two years ago now. And when I started, it really operated like a stereotypical hospital Foundation, mostly raising money for equipment. But to me, that was such a missed opportunity to have a true dialogue about women’s health... and women’s health issues!
We’ve since invested the most money in our Foundation’s history towards research... because I believe this is the right place to start, for us to really ask ourselves the right questions, to begin to address why health inequities still exist for women.
How is the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation making a difference?
Starting to focus more on education, advocacy and awareness has truly opened up the possibilities for our Foundation.
We no longer only want to reach women who are interfacing with the healthcare system. We’re really urging our communities to expand their understanding of health. In Canada, we see ourselves as being a progressive country. But even when people become aware that health inequities exist, many still don’t understand or believe the pervasiveness or impact of this inequity.
What has been the most incredible aspect of this shift, for us, is there is now truly no one we won’t collaborate with. We’re no longer just having conversations with people who are interested in funding hospital equipment. We’re now looking to our online influencers, people in our community, and brands like Smash and Tess, that are ready to get loud about women’s health.
What are the most shocking statistics women should be aware of when it comes to their health care?
- Prior to the 1990’s, women were not included in most research studies. (1)
- Doctors often approach women’s pain as psychological or psychosocial and are more likely to refer women to a therapist rather than a pain clinic. (2)
- Women make up 70% of all people living in poverty in Canada. Poverty is one of the strongest indicators of poor health. (2)
- Women’s health is mistakenly equated ONLY with reproductive and maternal health - Half of women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. (2)
- Women experience depression twice as often as men. (2)
- Women react to medications differently than men but many cardiovascular drugs, like Aspirin and Warfarin, have only been tested on men (3)
- Women are more likely to report severe and long-lasting pain, but are typically treated less aggressively than men. (4)
- 79% of people living with Complex Chronic Diseases are women. (5)
And yet, women have the primary role of caring for others in their immediate and extended households.
Gender inequity in healthcare ultimately holds women back from reaching their full potential.
What are you hoping to achieve this year and in years to come?
My ultimate dream is to close the health gap, to unleash the untapped potential of over half the population. I’m really working towards a future in which women are seen, heard, and understood by the healthcare system.
How can women be a part of the change and better advocate for themselves?
Everyone is invited to join us as we dismantle the barriers and remove the biases that have caused gender inequity in healthcare in B.C.
Smash + Tess is so honoured to celebrate International Women’s Day by supporting the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation. The For Real Sunday Romper is dedicated to YOU and the crusade for gender equity in health care!
Let’s do this to support our moms, sisters and besties!
(1) d’Agincourt-Canning & Baird, 2006; P. A. Johnson et al., 2014; Mazure & Jones, 2015; Morrow et al., 2009; Schiebinger, 2003; Wenger, 2004 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14523031
(2) CIHR: Sex, Gender and Women’s Health 2000 | Women’s College Hospital, The Health Gap 2018
(4) Hoffmann & Tarzian, 2001
(5) Dusenbery, Maya. Doing Harm. Harper Collins Publishers, 2018.