Why Women, Gender, and Health?

  • “The health of both sexes is influenced by biological factors including, but not confined to, their reproductive characteristics.”
  • “Socially constructed gender characteristics are also important in shaping the capacity of both women and men to realize their potential for health.”
  • “Gender inequalities in access to health-promoting resources have damaging effects on women’s well-being.”
  • “Men face particular problems because of the relation between masculine identities and risk taking.”

     (Doyal, BMJ 2001; 323; 1061-3)

Addressing issues of women, gender, and health requires the study of the health of women and girls – and men and boys – throughout the lifecourse, with gender, gender equality, and biology understood as important and interacting determinants of well-being and disease. Also included are the study of gender and gender inequality in relation to individuals’ treatment by and participation in health and medical care systems, the physical, economic, and social conditions in which they live, and their ability to promote the health of their families, their communities, and themselves. Inherent in this definition is recognition of diversity and inequality among women – and men – in relation to race/ethnicity, nationality, class, sexuality, and age, and that protection of human rights is fundamental to health.