Quantifying Discrepancies in Research Efforts in Women's & Men's Sexual Health
Emily May, BA, Meg Hanley, BS, Daniela Orozco Rendon, BS, Martin S. Gross, MD.
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH, USA.
Introduction: Recent media attention highlights disparities in knowledge and treatment options between women's and men's sexual health. We sought to quantify the purported discrepancy by examining the number of studies, amount of funding, and public opinion for both women's (WSH) and men's sexual health (MSH) conditions.
Materials & Methods: Publicly available data from the NIH RePORTER and Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) database were used to explore three dimensions: project count, amount of funding per project, and phase/duration of study. Publication numbers were gathered from NIH RePORTER. As a metric of public opinion, we queried GuideStar for foundations dedicated to the conditions of interest. Two sets of search phrases were used in each database (Table I). Included projects listed sexual function among their primary outcomes. Projects based outside the US were excluded.
Results: WSH conditions yielded 22 results: 18 in NIH RePORTER, 3 in PCORI, and 1 foundation listed by GuideStar. In total, queries for MSH conditions yielded 56 results: 47, 3, and 6, for each respective database. Funding for MSH totaled $57.6 million, while WSH reached $21.9 million. GuideStar data showed that foundations with missions related to MSH outnumbered those dedicated to WSH 6 to 1 (Table II).
Conclusion: A discrepancy exists between funding for MSH and WSH, even when controlling for number of projects related to each. The total number of hypotheses for sexual health conditions, represented by the number of projects and publications is low overall and skewed in favor of MSH - highlighting a generalized lack of attention on sexual health and especially WSH. Sexual function is almost always a patient reported experience, yet even PCORI yielded few results and revealed projects related to men's sexual health to be in more robust stages of exploration than that of women's (RCTs vs. systematic review). Strikingly, urology continues to favor projects related MSH with no projects on WSH originating from urology departments in NIH RePORTER.
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