Brown Bag: Finnish researchers working towards non-biased medical research

The topic of the Brown Bag lunch seminar in May was introducing and utilising research on gynaecological illnesses. The speakers were professor of female reproductive endocrinology, Terhi Piltonen and Postdoctoral researcher Noora Hirvonen from the faculty of Information Studies.

Terhi began by introducing a bias in medical research, formed by relying on data gathered from male informants. This bias is strengthened by biased insurance policies, which in many states do not cover conditions related to women’s health and the fact that most of the research data is collected in clinical circumstances.

She pointed out India as an example of having a huge difference in the average expenditure in men in healthcare over women. She suspected that culture plays a big role in this example, but India is still a good example since it is such a huge population.

Terhi thinks of Finland as a great place to study obstetrics and gynaecology because men and women are relatively equal in Finland, women are highly educated, and we have a social security system. But even here there is a bias of men being the default case.

Terhi shed light on her research on PCOS, which was formerly thought of as a not so harmful condition but turned out to be a syndrome with lots of effects in different aspects of health. The research conducted on the Northern Finnish birth cohort shows that many symptoms that were formerly thought of trivial and not clinically meaningful might be serious indicators of PCOS. This is really significant in individual level.

In 2015, a collegium was gathered to release a paper on the matter and three years later PCOS guideline was published.

Noora told about her research on HPV vaccination. She has studied, who makes the decision whether to take HPV vaccination or not and what is this decision based on. Unlike most of the vaccinations in the national vaccination programme, HPV is taken voluntarily as a teenager and not as a baby like the most of these vaccinations.

The likelihood of taking the vaccination varies between regions and religious groups. Nooras research show that the people included in the decision-making are the girl herself, her parents and medical experts. In different discussions and discourses there is still a big difference in who is seen as the actual decision-maker and the grounds this decision is based on.

Last updated: 14.5.2020