Sex refers to the biological characteristics such as anatomy (e.g. body size and shape) and physiology (e.g. hormonal activity or functioning of organs) that distinguish males and females.
Gender refers to the array of socially constructed roles, attitudes, personality traits, behaviours, values and relative power and influence that society ascribes to two sexes on a differential basis.
Evidence indicates that the biological, economical and social differences between men and women, girls and boys, contribute to differences in health risks, health services use, health care system interaction and overall health outcomes. SGBA is an approach to research, policies and programs which looks at biological (sex-based) and socio-cultural (gender-based) differences between women and men, girls and boys. It helps to identify and clarify any differences that may affect women's or men's health status and their access to, and interaction with the health care system.
SGBA should be applied within the context of diversity to determine how other variables such as ethnicity, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, length of time in Canada, where you live and age interact with sex and gender and affect exposures to various risk factors, disease courses and outcomes. This knowledge will help ensure that proposed research policies and programs lead to better outcomes and are equally beneficial for all Canadians
Sex and gender-based analysis supports the development of sound science and reliable evidence that addresses sex and gender differences between men and women, boys and girls. Further, SGBA is consistent with federal commitments to equality and human rights - Section 15 of the charter - as well as with Health Canada's Mission, the Population Health Approach and the Determinants of Health paradigm which includes gender.
Being male or female has an impact on our health risks, health services use, interaction with the health care system and overall health outcomes.
Anatomical and physiological differences between men and women can affect how drugs and or other chemicals act in the body. For example the same drug can cause different reactions and different side effects in women and men, even common drugs like antihistamines and antibiotics. Similarly, women who smoke are over 20% more likely to develop lung cancer than men who smoke the same number of cigarettes.
The following examples illustrate how sex (biological differences) and gender (socially constructed roles and relationships) affect our health, and suggest how this information can lead to new questions and research. Some of the examples also show how SGBA combined with a diversity analysis reveals important information about the health of specific groups of men and women. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) tends to appear about 10 years later in women than in men, this is due to a sex difference, the protective effect of women's higher levels of estrogen before menopause. However, gender related CVD risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, depression, low income, elevated serum lipid levels, hypertension, obesity and lack of physical activity, may also be different for men and women.
For Aboriginal women, the rate of diabetes is five times higher than it is for all other women in Canada; for Aboriginal men, the rate is three times higher.
When compared to mothers with partners, single mothers are at increased health risk due to a range of social factors. For example, a greater percentage are low-income (27% vs 7% of partnered mothers) and they are more likely to experience food insecurity (33% vs 13% of partnered mothers, and 18% of single fathers).
Main Sources: Statistics Canada various reports; Exploring Concepts of Gender and Health (Health Canada, 2003); Women's Health Surveillance Report: A Multidimensional Look at the Health of Canadian Women (Canadian Population Health Initiative and Health Canada, 2003)