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Healthy Living

Gender-based Analysis

Health Canada
March 2003


What is Gender-based Analysis?

Gender-based analysis (GBA) is an analytical tool that systematically integrates a gender perspective into the development of policies, programs and legislation, as well as planning and decision-making processes. It helps to identify and clarify the differences between women and men, boys and girls, and demonstrates how these differences affect health status, access to, and interaction with, the health care system.

Within Health Canada, the goal of GBA is to help secure the best possible health for the women and men, boys and girls of Canada by examining and assessing the links between gender and health.

Why is GBA Important?

By using GBA, Health Canada can improve its understanding of sex and gender as determinants of health, and how they interact with other determinants. This knowledge will help ensure that proposed policies, programs and legislation have intended and equitable results for all people living in Canada.

The GBA framework recognizes that the differences between men and women are influenced by a variety of factors, including class, socio-economic status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, geographic location, education and physical and mental ability.

GBA is consistent with Health Canada's Population Health Approach which aims to reduce health inequities by looking at and acting upon factors that influence health. These factors, also known as the determinants of health, include:

gender, income and social factors, social support networks, education, employment, working and living conditions, physical and social environments, biology and genetic endowment, personal health practices, coping skills, healthy child development, health services and culture.

How Do Sex and Gender Affect Health?

Being male or female has a profound impact on our health status, as well as our access to and use of health services. 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. Several of these examples also show how GBA 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. 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 the first time in Canada, smoking among teenaged girls now exceeds smoking rates among teenaged boys. Among girls aged 15 to 19, 25.1% reported being daily smokers in 1998-1999 and 26% in 2001, as compared with 18.5% and 20% respectively for boys in this age group.
  • The death rate from suicide is at least four times higher for men than it is for women. However, women are hospitalized for attempted suicide at about one and a half times the rate of men.
  • 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: the great majority are low-income (81% vs 15% of partnered mothers); more than half experience food insecurity (54% vs 10%); and 40% experience violence compared to 7% of partnered mothers.

Main Sources: Exploring Concepts of Gender and Health (Health Canada, 2003): www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/women/exploringconcepts.htm; Women's Health Surveillance Report: A Multidimensional Look at the Health of Canadian Women (Next link will take you to another Web site Canadian Population Health Initiative and Health Canada, 2003)

Health Canada's Commitment to GBA

Health Canada has achieved key milestones in implementing GBA throughout the department:

The Federal Plan for Gender Equality (1995)

  • The Federal Plan was released in response to the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing.
  • Chapter 3 of the Federal Plan, "Improving the Health and Well-being of Women", committed Canada to the development and implementation of a Women's Health Strategy.

Health Canada's Women's Health Strategy (1999)

  • The Women's Health Strategy committed Health Canada to conducting a GBA of all the substantive work of the department, including existing and future program, policy, legislation and research efforts.
  • Objective 1 of Health Canada's Women's Health Strategy is: "To ensure that Health Canada's policies and programs are responsive to sex and gender and to women's health needs.

Health Canada's Gender-based Analysis Policy (2003)

  • Health Canada's GBA Policy is recognized as a horizontal policy initiative in Health Canada's Report on Plans and Priorities.
  • The GBA policy and the Women's Health Strategy require that the substantive work of the department undergo a systemic gender-based analysis.

Health Canada's Gender-based Analysis Implementation Strategy (2003)

  • The five-year internal plan to put GBA into full effect across the department includes:
    • a training strategy that includes offering courses at introductory and advanced levels, as well as on-line training;
    • other learning opportunities, such as Health Canada policy forums and seminars focussing on GBA and its application to health;
    • resources and tools to help Health Canada apply GBA to its daily work;
    • research into knowledge gaps in gender and health;
    • a working group to ensure consistency across the department;
    • regular monitoring and evaluation of GBA implementation in the department.