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Gender Influences Health

In almost all cultures and settings around the world and across social groups, women have less access to and control over resources than most men, and are denied equal access to facilities like education and training. However, what it means to be a man or a woman varies across cultures, races and classes. It is important to unpack the concepts of “man“ or “woman“ and be clear about which groups of men or women we are discussing. [9]

What we, the medical profession, see is entirely coloured by our personal and institutional perspectives, the lenses through which we see life. The gender lens colours how we see medical problems and how we define illness. It can also blind us to the holes in the literature database from which we derive our evidence and on which we base our therapy decisions.


Gender based differences in access to or control over resources, in power or decision making, and in roles and responsibilities, have implications for women’s and men’s health status.[5]

Gender may influence health status in the following ways:

Source: Health Canada website and Media Photo Gallery, Health Canada, Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2006.

  • exposure, risk or vulnerability

  • nature, severity or frequency of health problems

  • ways in which symptoms are perceived

  • health seeking behaviour

  • access to health services

  • ability to follow prescribed treatments

  • long term social and health consequences [6]


5. Dr. Janet Dollin, University of Ottawa

6. Integrating Gender Perspectives in the work of WHO, WHO Gender Policy, 2002.

9. WHO Gender and Health : technical paper 1998 gender_and_ health _technical_paper/WHO_98_16.introduction.en.html

All references for this section