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EQUITY: Why integrating gender in public health research is key

May 11, 2023
EQUITY: Why integrating gender in public health research is key
A snip from the PLOS Global Public Health journal with an inset of Ifakara Health Institute researcher, Dr. Sally Mtenga, who contributed to the study and publication. GRAPHIC | IFAKARA/KMC.

A new study recommends integration of gender in public health research from early on as part of the design and to conduct gendered analysis, as part of the overall drive towards more equitable health systems.

The study, published in the PLOS Global Public Health journal recently, among other things, documents experiences of addressing the gender issue. “Gender in public and global health matters and needs to be more effectively addressed by the research and policy community.”

Ifakara’s senior social scientist, Dr. Sally Mtenga, worked in this study alongside colleagues Marta Palmeirim, Séverine Erismann, Andrea Leuenberger, Peter Odermatt and Helen Prytherch from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), Switzerland.

Other contributors are: Monica Berger-González from the University of the Valley of Guatemala, Guatemala; Somphou Sayasone from Lao Tropical and Public Health Institute, Lao PDR; and Claire Somerville from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Switzerland.

Gendered analysis is inevitable
“Addressing gender in public and global health projects as an integral part of the research design and the inclusion of gendered analysis is inevitable in the strive towards more equitable health systems towards reaching the SDGs, in particular, SDG 3 good health and wellbeing and SDG 5 on gender equality,” the scientists say.

Two key themes were identified by the scientists as they explored how different research projects address issues around gender including challenges and opportunities that gender perspectives play in public health research more widely.

“We describe two main themes, the first being two of the structural pillars of conducting public health research – design and process, and the second being some of the underlying opportunities and resistances to the integration of a gender perspective in these projects – with case study material illustrating experiences and learnings on how to move forward with a gender lens in public health research.”

The themes were identified after analyzing four public health research projects conducted in six low-and middle-income countries namely Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guatemala, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Mozambique and Tanzania.

Sex, gender disaggregation can be a starting point
“Our case studies confirmed, that the issue of gender should be considered in all phases of a research project. Researchers make sure they take into account who participates as respondents, when data is collected and where, who is present, and who collects data and analysis data,” the scientist report.

“Sex and gender disaggregation can serve as starting points to showing female-male differences that can trigger further investigation of how gender power relations are constituted and negotiated within the communities and the health systems, how they can create inequities but also reflecting on how the research itself is embedded within potential power relations.”

>> Read full journal article: https://journals.plos.org/globalpublichealth/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgph.0000808#sec005