Gender Inequality, Norms Affect Health Outcomes: Lancet Series

The series says the solution to transforming gendered inequalities is in enhancing healthcare systems and policies.

2 min read

A new Lancet series titled ‘Gender Equality, Norms and Health’ was officially launched late on 4 June during the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Canada.

The series includes five papers, five commentaries and other content on gender and healthcare and is a study of the relationship between gender norms and their impact on health.

It aims to look at gender in a broader light, linking it to economic and social power, and then to healthcare. This effort was carried out by Stanford University along with a team of interdisciplinary experts around the world who looked into gendered health inequalities around the world.

Interestingly, the series also says that the solutions to transforming gendered inequalities lies in enhancing healthcare systems and policies.

One of the primarily findings that the series establishes is that gender, the way it is constructed and acted upon, has very real and often adverse effects on your health.

Key Insights

The five papers presented in the series cover topics that outline gender transformatory opportunities in health, look at legal and policy changes, and key insights from global healthcare that has invariably been split along gendered lines, with everyone – women, men, children and gender minorities see their health affected by societal norms.

Stanford University’s Gary L Darmstadt, associate dean for maternal and child health, told The Lancet on a podcast that the series aimed to arrive at a “rights-based solution that dignified and empowered people, and looked after their health.”

  • Gender norms have a direct and often adverse effect on our health and healthcare systems since gender biases seep into research and create healthcare inequalities.
  • Other structural inequalities, like race, class and ability, also compound the bias and it is imperative to understand how these social forces work to create lasting, impactful change in our overall healthcare.
  • Gender norms impact everyone, not just women and girls or gender minorities – although they are often the most at risk, especially “lower-income, marginalised women” says Darmstadt. Additionally, often gender is thought of in a binary and this exudes and negatively impacts the healthcare (and research on) of transgender and non-binary people.
When people think of gender, they often think of women and girls and gender inequality, but when it comes to restrictive gender norms – these are things that all of us are navigating and being influenced by, and it has massive impacts on our health.
Gary L Darmstadt
  • These biases seep into our healthcare solutions and research methods, and imbalance the data we use as well.
  • The series showed that targeted policies and mutli-stakeholder interventions that are both scalable and sustainable, can help transform this gender inequality in health and otherwise.

The Lancet’s Dr Jocalyn Clark and Dr Richard Horton have written that while gender seems ubiquitious, it is also nowhere, “not in the universal healthcare coverage plans, it's not tied to the accountability of organisational and government leaders, and it's not routinely reported in research.” The series is thus an effort start a conversation and bring gender into focus in healthcare.

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