Karen Feinstein Presents at International Women’s Forum Chile Conference on “Women, Aging, and Inequities in Healthcare”

The “Women, Aging, and Inequities in Healthcare” panel with (from left to right) Teresa Valdes-Fauli Weintraub, Karen Wolk Feinstein, and Jamile Camacho.

The International Women's Forum (IWF) 2022 Cornerstone Conference, "Discovery Through Earth, Seas, & Skies," took place in Santiago, Chile, from May 17 to May 19. The annual IWF Cornerstone Conference brings together some of the world's preeminent women leaders to explore critical issues across professions with the aim of advancing women's leadership and championing equality worldwide. Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, president and CEO of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), participated in one of the 2022 conference's major panels, "Women, Aging, and Inequities in Healthcare," as well as co-hosted the Healthcare Special Interest Group session as a follow-up on her panel's discussion.

Women deal with inequities in health care across the world, but the biases and the discrimination grow even more pronounced as women get older. During the IWF Town Hall panel discussion on "Women, Aging, and Inequities in Healthcare," Teresa Valdes-Fauli Weintraub, managing director at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., moderated a discussion with Dr. Feinstein and Jamile Camacho, MD, professor of surgery and breast pathology and magister in bioethics at Clinica Alemana Universidad del Desarrollo and past president of the Surgeons Society of Chile, to explore why older women face inequities in health care and consider options to address the situation.

Dr. Feinstein and Dr. Camacho provided evidence that older women across the world often face challenges in getting the best care: confusing and random payment coverage for basic diagnostics; complicated treatment guidelines, with some guidelines even lacking the validation of good science. Guidelines can be set by "out-of-touch" actuaries who seem to assume that the quality of life after 65 or 70 isn't worth an investment in expensive interventions—even when these interventions could add satisfying and productive years to their lives. Without coverage, treatments can be unaffordable because many older women live on very tight budgets (including below poverty levels).

Too few charitable foundations or politicians champion research or insurance coverage that would address these disadvantages for older women, even when what is paid for, recommended, and delivered reflects a basic societal "ageism." Geriatricians generally receive lower reimbursement than other specialties in the U.S., leading to a serious shortage, while a growing aging population increases the need for such care. Consequently, senior women are undertreated, underdiagnosed, under-researched, under-respected.

The talk ended with a call to senior women and post-menopausal women to speak up and advocate for themselves. There is much to learn from the successful advocacy efforts of AIDS activists, participants in Race for the Cure, and mothers who promoted designated driver campaigns. 

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