Why sex and gender matter in health research synthesis
Consideration of sex and gender in health research is essential for informed decision-making, reduction of harm, and for the promotion of health equity. Men, women and people of diverse gender identities can have different vulnerabilities, symptoms, and responses to health interventions. Sex and gender influence health at multiple levels, ranging from subcellular processes to interactions at the societal or global level. For example, sex and/or gender affect the pharmacokinetics of drugs; genetic expression and cell regulatory processes; onset, prevalence and severity of diseases; recognition and diagnosis of conditions; access to, and utilization of, health services; patient-practitioner interactions; and how health and disease are experienced by individuals.
Defining sex and gender
Although there are no single agreed-upon definitions of sex and gender, sex typically refers to biological and physiological processes whereas gender refers to the roles, relationships, behaviours, relative power and other traits that societies ascribe to women, men and people of diverse gender identities. Gender includes gender roles (behavioural norms), gender identities (how we see ourselves), and gender relations (how we interact with one another). Despite these distinctions, sex and gender are not neatly separable. It is increasingly understood that sex-based biological factors and gendered social factors influence each other and interactively shape health behaviour, opportunities, and outcomes. In recognition of this theoretical and empirical entanglement, we use the term sex/gender. Sex/gender analysis is an analytic framework for asking questions about possible biological and social similarities and differences between and among women and men, boys, girls, and people of diverse gender identities.
What we do
The Sex/Gender Methods Group was established in December 2005 and is affiliated as a subgroup of the Campbell and Cochrane Equity Methods Group. Our group's vision is a world where health equity is advanced and health outcomes for all are improved. Our mission is to improve the applicability and quality of health research evidence for clinical practice, policies, and program by fostering the integration of sex/gender analysis in primary research and research synthesis. To realize this mission, we presently focus on three strategic priorities which are to:
- Advance the science of sex/gender analysis by undertaking primary research to inform and transform health research theoretical frameworks and methods;
- Support health researchers and reviewers in integrating sex/gender in research synthesis and reporting by developing methods and tools; and
- Translate knowledge about sex/gender analysis through a variety of means including practical training, educational resources, and outreach with health research stakeholders.
Some of our recent programs include developing a planning tool to assist systematic reviewers in using sex/gender analysis and creating topic-specific briefing notes as knowledge translation tools to support uptake of sex/gender considerations. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate and engage with researchers interested in learning more about sex/gender analysis and encourage you to contact us about how we can assist.
The Sex and Gender in Systematic Reviews: Planning Tool can help you integrate sex/gender when planning your review.
Click here to view our list of publications, presentations, and selected references.
NEW! Briefing notes that provide systematic review authors with information and guidance on sex and gender analysis:
- Guidance for reviews with the HIV/AIDS Review Group
- Guidance for reviews with the Hypertension Review Group
- Guidance for reviews with the Musculoskeletal (MSK) Review Group
We received a planning grant for "Improving consideration of sex and gender in clinical trials of cardiovascular disease". Click here for more information.
Methods Group Members
Madeline Boscoe, RN DU, REACH CHC, Vancouver BC, Canada
Stephanie Coen, PhD, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Marion Doull, PhD, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC, Canada
Janet Jull, OT, PhD, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa ON, Canada
Zack Marshall, PhD, McGill University, Montreal QC, Canada
Ann Pederson, PhD, BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre, Vancouver BC, Canada
Jennifer Petkovic, PhD, University of Ottawa, Ottawa ON, Canada
Susan Phillips, MD, CCFP, MSc, Queens University, Kingston ON, Canada
Lorri Puil, MD PhD, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC, Canada
Vivien Runnels, PhD, University of Ottawa, Ottawa ON, Canada
Beverly Shea, PhD, University of Ottawa, Ottawa ON, Canada
Sari Tudiver, PhD, Independent Research/Writer, Ottawa ON, Canada
Vivian Welch, PhD, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa ON, Canada
Contact us: jennifer.petkovic [at] uottawa.ca
The activities of the group are funded in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.