Objectives: To propose a platform for gender in policies which seek to achieve gender-based equity in health.
Methodology: Analytical and interpretive.
Results: The author advances four central points for developing a gender-based agenda in public policy. The first is linked to the idea of adopting a gender-focused outlook in health. This point implies the need to analyze the cultural, social, political, and ideological factors underlying the different roles that society assigns to men and women. In this connection, the author examines several fallacies, e.g., that women make better administrators than men, or that mortality correlates with maternal education. Such fallacies sway public policies that perpetuate negative distinctions and inequities. The second point, tied to the visibility of gender analysis, originates in changes of womens social roles and in the growth of the feminist movement, which made gender equity a global public good. The third point questions whether this outlook is applicable to womens health only. In the authors viewpoint, a similar perspective should apply to men as well as to women. Nevertheless, because more health programs are devoted to women, conceptualization of gender usually involves women alone. Finally, public policies concerned with issues of gender and equity must necessarily involve the health problems of men, not only to address such problems in their own right, but also to create a better understanding of womens health problems.
The author also notes the importance of knowing the risks associated with gender. These risks are tied to the ways in which men and women fall sick, how they perceive their illness, and how they seek medical care. Assessments of health needs must be made on the biological, personal, and social levels. The type of health coverage and financial mechanisms brought on by reforms also should be analyzed; policy reforms include important gender-based distinctions, such as the different rates and coverage imposed by private insurers on women of reproductive age.
The training of human resources is another element to be considered in gender-sensitive public policies, since inequities will be observed in the distribution of technical knowledge and power, both within educational institutions and in the provision of healthcare services.
Conclusions: The present challenges in constructing a public policy agenda that includes issues of gender rest on incorporating the several points noted above in programming, execution, and monitoring activities, so that policies indeed help drive equity.
Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico