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Sex and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA)

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What is Sex and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA)?


  • Is a systematic approach to research, policies and programs which inquires about biological (sex-based) and socio-cultural (gender-based) differences between women and men, boys and girls.
  • Challenges the assumption that women and men are affected in the same way by research, policies and programs, or that health issues such as causes, effects and service delivery are unaffected by sex and or gender.
  • Should be applied within the context of diversity (i.e., age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, migration status, geography etc.) as diversity interacts with sex and gender and contributes to risk.
  • Within the Health Portfolio, the goal of SGBA is to help secure the best possible health for the women and men, boys and girls in Canada by examining and assessing the links between sex, gender and health.

What do sex and gender mean?


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.

Why do Sex and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA)?

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.

How Do Sex and Gender Affect Health?

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)

Health Canada's Commitment to Gender-Based Analysis

  • In 2009, Health Canada along with its Health Portfolio partners approved a new Health Portfolio Sex and Gender Based Analysis Policy. This policy commits Health Portfolio partners to use sex and gender based analysis when they develop, implement and evaluate their research, policies and programs to help meet the needs of Canadian men and women, girls and boys.
  • However, Health Canada has had a Gender Based Analysis Policy consistent with the The Federal Plan for Gender Equality (1995) and the United Nations Platform for Action (Beijing 1995) guiding its development of research, policies and programs since 2000.
  • Health Canada supports and manages the Women's Health Contribution Program, which uses a gender sensitive approach to policy research aimed at enhancing the health system's understanding of, and responsiveness to, women's health issues.
  • Health Canada also participates in interdepartmental gender-focused networks and working groups such as the Assistant Deputy Minister Interdepartmental Committee on Gender Equality and the Gender Based Analysis Interdepartmental Committee led by the Status of Women.