The Lancet: Health progress threatened by neglect of gender

May 30, 2019

The Sustainable Development Goals offer the prospect of ensuring healthy lives for the world's population by 2030. But this ambition will not be realised without eliminating gender inequality and changing society's attitudes to women and men.

Today, The Lancet published a new Series on "Gender Equality, Norms and Health", which finds that governments and health institutions have persistently failed to make progress towards gender equality, despite the impact of gender - and the spoken and unspoken rules of societies about acceptable gender behaviours - on health throughout life. Set to be launched at the annual 'Women Deliver 2019' [1] conference, this Lancet Series is the result of a four-year project developed by over 100 contributors from five continents.

Gary L Darmstadt, Associate Dean of Maternal and Child Health at Stanford University and Chair of the Lancet Series Steering Committee, said: "There are multiple myths about gender and health that must be defeated: for example the myth that gender does not influence health--it does, massively; or views that gender cannot be changed--they can; or that gender is an elusive idea that cannot be measured--it can. With advances in health historically thwarted by the neglect of gender, this Lancet Series aims to provide new understanding of the impact of gender on health, and present the opportunities that exist within health systems, policies, laws, and programmes to transform health for all."

Gender Equality, Norms and Health: the key findings

Around the world, women and men were found to experience different exposures to disease and risk factors that adversely influence their health. These gender driven differences intersect with other related inequalities (age, class, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexuality) and amplify negative effects on health and health systems.

Health systems and healthcare delivery were also shown to neglect and reinforce gender inequalities in health, while health research and health data collection are gender biased and incomplete. Corporate interests did not escape scrutiny, with large corporations found to manipulate gender for profit and promote adverse effects on health.

The good news is that laws, policies, and programmes can improve gender equality and health. Equality inspired policies such as free primary education and paid maternity and parental leave, among others, were shown to have a positive impact on a variety of maternal and child health outcomes. But there is not yet wide-spread adoption.

Action on gender and health: is the world ready to act?

Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, said: "In an era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the opportunity of connecting global social movements for health and gender equality is real, urgent, necessary, and achievable. However, a conservative backlash, such as the global gag rule and the rollback of sexual and reproductive health and rights, threatens not only the health gains made for women and men, but also the possibility for future gains."

"Political leaders have so far shown wilful indifference towards gender and attitudes to gender and their effects on health. But this Lancet Series offers the evidence and prospects for transformative social and political change."

These prospects come in the form of five evidence-based recommendations:In particular, the Lancet Series highlights multiple missed opportunities to engage health systems in gender transformative strategies to improve health - and lays out specific recommendations, including: increasing the visibility of women in health leadership and cure roles; recognising and rewarding care roles; addressing sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace; and creating the conditions to enable change in the way women interact with the health system.

The international evidence base for gender and health

Underpinning these findings, the Lancet Series identifies many examples of how gender inequalities - and the unwritten rules that govern the way people understand gender - influence health adversely:An original article published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health today [2] adds further weight to the findings of the Lancet Series, providing the first known evidence that a person's gender expression toward masculinity or femininity can track through time to affect their health in adulthood, including the likelihood of engaging in risky or healthy behaviours and of several health outcomes.

This prospective cohort study explored the impact of gender expression on health in more than 12,000 US residents, from adolescence through to early adult years, and found that adolescent gender expression is correlated with health in adulthood independently of gender expression as an adult. For some outcomes, masculinity or femininity conveyed risks independent of the biological sex of the individual.

Lead author Holly Baker Shakya noted: "While our awareness of "gender" as something which is socially constructed and reinforced is increasing, the degree to which our social expression of gender can impact our well-being throughout our lives is just starting to come into focus."

In an independent commentary, Caroline Moreau from the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA, said: "The results of this study reaffirm the importance of addressing gender inequities in early adolescence before identities solidify, and call for an immediate application of gender transformative interventions that challenge gender ideologies, from which the performance of gender effects the development of unhealthy bodies."
-end-
NOTES TO EDITORS

The work of the Series was funded by the Gender Equality, Integrated Delivery, HIV, Nutrition, Family Planning, and Water Sanitation and Hygiene Program Strategy Teams at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, through grants to Stanford University.

[1] The Lancet Series on Gender Equality, Health and Norms will be launched at an event from 5pm - 7pm on Tuesday, June 4th 2019, during Women Deliver 2019 (Vancouver), the world's largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women. For more details on this event, panellists and speakers, which is open to all guests attending Women Deliver, please contact Anne Coleman on E) anne.coleman@lancet.com T) +44 (0) 7468708644 (https://twitter.com/TheLancet/status/1130788602454183936).

The labels have been added to this press release as part of a project run by the Academy of Medical Sciences seeking to improve the communication of evidence. For more information, please see: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/AMS-press-release-labelling-system-GUIDANCE.pdf if you have any questions or feedback, please contact The Lancet press office pressoffice@lancet.com

IF YOU WISH TO PROVIDE A LINK FOR YOUR READERS, PLEASE USE THE FOLLOWING, WHICH WILL GO LIVE AT THE TIME THE EMBARGO LIFTS: The Lancet Gender Series: http://www.thelancet.com/series/gender-equality-norms-health, The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health article: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanchi/article/PIIS2352-4642(19)30160-9/fulltext

The Lancet

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.