Activism and Evidence: Shaping Equitable Health Policies in Canada The Health Researcher’s Toolkit: Why Sex & Gender Matter

  • Introduction
    • The Health Researcher’s Toolkit: Why Sex & Gender Matter
    • Introduction
    • Module Objectives
    • Presenter Profile
  • Content
    • Sex & Gender
    • Key Terms & Concepts
    • Maureen O'Neil Part I: Lecture Video
    • Maureen O’Neil Part I: Women's Reproductive Health Milestones
    • Maureen O'Neil Part II: Lecture Video
    • Maureen O’Neil Part II: Canadian Milestones
    • Maureen O’Neil Part II: Health Advocates
    • Module Summary
    • Reflection
    • Thank you for completing the module!
    • About Women's Xchange
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The Health Researcher’s Toolkit: Why Sex & Gender Matter

Developed by the Women’s Xchange

Learning objectives

  • Define sex and gender and know how to correctly apply these terms
  • Explain why sex and gender matter in health research
  • Identify and apply methods for integrating sex and gender in different types of studies


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Introduction

Activism and Evidence: Shaping Equitable Health Policies in Canada

A module of The Health Researcher’s Toolkit: Why Sex and Gender Matter

Presenter: Maureen O’Neil

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Module Objectives

In this module, you will learn

  • About the historical context of sex and gender analysis in Canada
  • How activism and evidence are essential partners in effecting change in health care policies
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Presenter Profile

Maureen O’Neil
President, Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement

Download Ms. O’Neil’s biography

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Sex & Gender

Not interchangeable terms

Sex

  • Biological attributes
  • Associated with physical and physiological features
  • Often conceptualized as binary: female or male
    • However biological attributes and expression can vary as individuals may be born with reproductive anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definition of female or male
  • Commonly understood as what was assigned at birth

Gender

  • Socially constructed and fluid
  • Culturally specific
  • Roles, behaviours, expressions, identities of girls, women, boys, men, gender diverse people
  • Gender identity
    • One’s innermost concept of self
    • May be same or differ from sex assigned at birth
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Key Terms & Concepts

Sex and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA): An approach that systematically examines sex-based and gender- based differences. The purpose of SGBA is to promote rigorous science that is sensitive to sex and gender. It has the potential to expand our understanding of health determinants for all people.

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Maureen O'Neil Part I: Lecture Video

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Maureen O’Neil Part I: Women's Reproductive Health Milestones

Improvements in health are achieved by activism backed with evidence: example of women’s reproductive health

  • 1960 - Birth control pill available in Canada, but only for therapeutic purposes, not for birth control
  • 1969 - Criminal Code amended so it is no longer illegal to advertise or sell birth control, provisions for abortion; influenced by Coroner’s Inquest into deaths from illegal abortions
  • 1970 - Abortion Caravan leaves Vancouver heading to Ottawa: pleading your case before a Therapeutic Abortion Committee not “good access” to health care
  • 1988 - Supreme Court of Canada declares abortion law unconstitutional: R. v. Morgentaler
  • 2015 - RU486 available in Canada, but difficult and expensive to access; available in France since 1988
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Maureen O'Neil Part II: Lecture Video

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Maureen O’Neil Part II: Canadian Milestones

Sex and gender analysis in Canada

  • 1970 - Royal Commissioner’s Report on the Status of Women in Canada: 168 recommendations; first commission to be lead by a woman and covered by the media; evidence-based; women were more likely than men to live in poverty
  • 1976 - Cabinet of Canada: all documents must explain differential impacts for women and men
  • The Status of Women Canada established as a policy agency
  • Canada brings sex and gender analysis to international tables
  • 1995 - Formalized with Auditor General reports
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Maureen O’Neil Part II: Health Advocates

Health advocates

  • Establish own agenda rather than only responding to others’ agendas
    • A lifeline analysis of the varying health needs of specific populations
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Module Summary

Including sex and gender in health research informs health

  • Relevant to the diversity of the Canadian population
  • Link activism to evidence
  • Sex and gender analysis is an essential tool
  • Challenging, ongoing, essential
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Reflection

How can your research support ongoing efforts to improve equity in health care?

Does your research point to new directions with policy implications?

Is there a forward agenda for a specific population that your research considers? Does your work support that agenda?

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Thank you for completing the module!

Please See Additional Resources Below:

M. Boscoe, G. Basen, G. Alleyne, B. Bourrier-LaCroix and S. White, “The women's health movement in Canada: looking back and moving forward,” Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme, 2004

C. Sethna & S. Stettner, The Women Are Coming; The Abortion Caravan of 1970, Activehistory.ca, May 2015, accessed 2018

About Women's Xchange

Based at Women’s College Hospital, Women’s Xchange is a women’s health knowledge translation and exchange centre, designed to promote women’s health research across the province. Funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Health Service Research Fund (HSRF), the centre supports women’s health research in both academic and community settings. In addition to supporting research, Women’s Xchange also provides women’s health researchers and trainees across the province with opportunities to gain new skills and develop new collaborations.

The Health Researcher’s Toolkit: Why Sex and Gender Matter

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