|Source: The Tribune|
Introduction to the Study
Key findings from the Study
- The study results suggest that there are significant gender differentials in the seeking of eye care across different dimensions- females have a lower incidence of perfect vision and
are more likely to be sight-impaired. They are more likely to be advised surgery and diagnosed for cataract.
- There are no significant gender differences between males and females in the case of an asymptomatic disease such as glaucoma. However, when a disease is linked to the direct perception of it, there are significant differences between the health outcomes of male and female, suggesting that males appear more responsive to their perceptions of ill-health.
- Women in the paid hospitals are less likely to be admitted at least one night before cataract surgery. This probably reflects the reluctance of the individual or family to admit women into hospitals early. However, there is no gender differential in going for follow-up after surgery.
- Lastly, the study does not find any evidence for females receiving differential care at the medical facility, thus concluding that inequality exists at the level of access rather than the level of treatment.
Possible Implications of the Study
- The results from the study clearly indicate that gender-based health inequalities exist, adversely impacting the health outcomes of females. There might be several possible reasons for this occurrence, ranging from societal norms or economic considerations that prioritize male health over female health, roles and responsibilities of women that prevent them from taking care of their own health, or lack of awareness (in terms of education/information) among women that affect their perception of illness. While these reasons have not yet been explored in the current study, they could form possible explanations for the gender bias in the seeking of health care.
- Based on these possible explanations, there seems to be a need for reforms in the Indian health sector. Firstly, setting up health infrastructure in remote and rural areas forms an essential step in ensuring access to health care to all groups of society. This is also backed by the findings of the study which suggest that low-income individuals/households have the lowest average rate of access and the largest differential in access between males and females. Secondly, education becomes an important tool to change the social mindset that promotes gender differences in access, adversely affecting the well-being of women. It can also be argued that one of the reasons for females seeking treatment later than males is perhaps because a girl child is not sent to school as frequently as a boy child, therefore affecting her perception of the disease. In this regard, there is a need for education to be provided to all groups of society that would help in reviewing the century old perceptions of mankind. While several campaigns have been initiated by the Central and State Government, there is still a long way to go before India achieves the objective of ‘education for all’.
- Gender differentials in employment opportunities might also have an implication on gender differentials in health outcomes. Eye health is of intrinsic importance since it is crucial for employment among other factors. Since women seek treatment later than men, the probability of women being affected with a severe eye problem is higher than that of men. This can also be generalized to other types of illnesses. For example, households could delay seeking treatment for women in favor of men because women do not require good eyesight for their work or because women have less lucrative employment opportunities than men. Therefore, gender inequality at the level of access could lead to a decrease in the employability of women.