When you hear “women’s health,” you might think of reproductive rights and abortion access. You might picture embattled clinics across the country and politicians legislating bodies and choices.

Yes, these are components of women’s health, as a whole, and vitally important components at that. But a woman’s reproductive system — just like a man’s — is only one part of a complex body that needs care from head to toe. And that includes mental health, too.

Where to begin

We look to medical research to find new cures and treatments to improve health, but we can improve the well-being of women, and of everyone, by taking into consideration sex differences between women and men. Being biologically female or male impacts every cell, tissue and organ in the body.

“Research must include women and the diverse general population in order to mend such inequities.”

Biological differences exist at every stage of development, from birth to puberty to middle age and beyond. From the very beginning, researchers need to be considering these differences and potential impacts to patients. Currently, research is conducted with the patient in mind, but that patient has historically been a white male, male animal, or male cell, which resulted in the skewed science and medicine we’re still impacted by today. Research must include women and the diverse general population in order to mend such inequities.

An empowered patient

But it isn’t just up to research: patients, too, need to advocate for themselves. Women need to be champions of their own health, asking their health care providers the right questions to facilitate diagnoses and better treatment and management plans.

It’s time for a revolution in the way we view women’s health. Research on sex differences can tell us what works for women and what doesn’t. It can also tell us what works best for men and other demographics. Studying sex differences could change medicine for the better, resulting in more targeted and tailored treatments for patients and better health for us all.