SAHTAC (South Africa Health Technologies Advocacy Coalition) advocates for an enabling environment for research, development and access to life-saving health technologies and innovations for all. It wasn’t until 1993 that women were required to be included in most research studies.
Studies that did include women were overwhelmingly related to reproductive science, showing a failure of the scientific community
to recognise that the spectrum of a woman’s health extends much further than her ability to have children.
The exclusion of women in research and other fields of health care was also due to the cycling of hormones which made them imperfect candidates for research, although hormones take place in men as well. Most research in the 20th century was done using young men. The implications of this lack of diversity are still felt today. Countless drugs still used have only been tested on men (unequal representation), leaving women susceptible to care that is less effective or even harmful.
This historical exclusion of women from research has not only affected our knowledge and mechanisms of certain drugs but also means that the scientific community is behind when it comes to other domains of women’s health. Moving forward, SAHTAC calls for health research and development to fill the gap of knowledge of our differences in biological sex, impact on disease pathways and health outcomes.