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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 109-111

Scope of Gender Bias in Health Sector: Insights for Policymakers

Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College & Research Institute, Ammapettai, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication28-Jun-2017

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh R Shrivastava
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College & Research Institute, 3rd Floor, Ammapettai Village, Thiruporur-Guduvancherry Main Road, Sembakkam Post, Kancheepuram 603108, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mamcjms.mamcjms_15_17

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How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Scope of Gender Bias in Health Sector: Insights for Policymakers. MAMC J Med Sci 2017;3:109-11

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Scope of Gender Bias in Health Sector: Insights for Policymakers. MAMC J Med Sci [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Jan 28];3:109-11. Available from: https://www.mamcjms.in/text.asp?2017/3/2/109/209014

Dear Editor,

Globally, gender bias/discrimination has emerged as a major public health concern owing to its enormous magnitude, wide distribution, and serious negative impact on the physical/mental/social dimensions of the health of millions of girls and women across the world.[1] In fact, it has been acknowledged as one of the crucial Millennium Development Goals (Goal-3) to promote gender equality and empower women by implementing strategic measures.[2] Although multiple factors have been cited in the amplification of the problem of gender bias, gender relations to the power have been identified as the root cause.[1] In addition, factors such as the education status of the parents, sociocultural norms, and the poor socioeconomic status of the family have also acted directly or indirectly as a catalyst in aggravating the burden of the problem.[3]

As far as the health sector is concerned, gender bias has been observed in multiple areas starting from the existing health policies that lack an essential component of gender awareness (viz., no attention being paid to the significance of gender in the hierarchy of the workforce, and recognition that gender affects working habits).[4] Furthermore, it has been reported even among the health care professionals pertaining to which health-related work is performed and by whom and how it is performed (e.g., women have been associated with the elements of work that are often not measurable such as caring, informal, part-time, unskilled, and unpaid kind of work in contrast to men, who are mostly associated with the curative, formal, full-time, skilled, and paid type of work).[2],[4] In fact, a female community health worker is being exposed to gender bias at various levels, namely their own homes, the communities they work in, and even at the level of the health system.[4] In addition, gender bias is reflected in the way gender issues are included in the medical curriculum (viz., minimal sensitization/preparedness of future doctors to gender issues) and the level of equity between sexes in academic course/research/scientific publications/clinical practice.[5],[6] In fact, a theoretical model has been proposed to explore the different dimensions of gender bias in the heterogeneous domains of medicine.[7]

The existing gender bias has led to serious adverse consequences for the patient, the members of the community, and the health care staff.[8] From the patients’ perspectives, negative impact has been observed in the patient–provider relationship, quality of care, exposure to the different forms of abuse, and reluctance to access health care services, especially pertaining to sexual and reproductive health.[7],[8] From the community/national point of view, concerns such as declining child sex ratio at birth, poor treatment-seeking behavior for childhood ailments, minimal utilization of health establishments, deterioration of mental health, rise in the incidence of different types of gender-based violence, and impact on social dimensions of health have been observed in heterogeneous settings.[1],[2],[8],[9],[10],[11] In fact, even the health care professionals have not escaped from the aftermaths of gender bias and have been exposed to harassment at the workplace; minimal employment security, promotion avenues, and remuneration; and limited options for professional growth in terms of occupying a senior post in the health sector hierarchy.[1],[4]

Owing to the multidimensional impact of gender bias in the health sector, implementing steps to improve gender equity in health and to address women’s rights to health is one of the most direct and significant ways to reduce health inequities and to ensure the effective use of health resources.[1] The first and foremost element to ensure gender equity is to formulate a gender-aware and evidence-based policy with special attention to ensure the provision of a gender-friendly environment at health centers.[4] In addition, there is a need to implement different measures such as reducing the health risks of being women and men by countering gendered exposures and vulnerabilities, improving women’s access to health care, providing gender-friendly care to positively influence their health-seeking behavior, ensuring the accountability of the health system to women, and bringing about a change in the mentality of people with the help of intensified awareness programs.[1],[2],[4],[5],[6],[7] Simultaneously, there is a great need to sensitize health providers at periodic interval regarding gender consciousness and giving adequate care/respect to women, constitute a committee in each of the health care establishment to monitor physical/verbal/sexual harassment of women at workplace, develop a mechanism to ensure focused mentoring and professional assessment so that women can be appointed at key positions, incorporate gender theories/attitude about gender in the medical education curriculum, increase the involvement of women in clinical practice and research, and extend support to agencies working for the welfare of women, based on the magnitude of the problem.[1],[2],[4],[5],[6],[7]

In conclusion, there is a definite need to implement measures at policy level and health sector levels to ensure that health centers essentially remain a source of healing rather than those that aggravate the problem of social inequity and gender discrimination.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Working together to accomplish gender equality in health: World Health Organization. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2016;9:286-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
Park K. Health care of the community. In: Park K, editor. Textbook of Preventive and Social Medicine. 23rd ed. Jabalpur: Banarsidas Bhanot; 2015. p. 893-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Echávarri RA, Ezcurra R. Education and gender bias in the sex ratio at birth: Evidence from India. Demography 2010;47:249-68.  Back to cited text no. 3
Standing H. Gender − A Missing Dimension in Human Resource Policy and Planning for Health Reforms; 2004. Available from: www.who.int/hrh/en/HRDJ_4_1_04.pdf. [Last accessed on 2017 Feb 14].  Back to cited text no. 4
Poinhos R. Gender bias in medicine. Acta Med Port 2011;24:975-86.  Back to cited text no. 5
Wong YL. Review paper: Gender competencies in the medical curriculum: Addressing gender bias in medicine. Asia Pac J Public Health 2009;21:359-76.  Back to cited text no. 6
Risberg G, Johansson EE, Hamberg K. A theoretical model for analysing gender bias in medicine. Int J Equity Health 2009;8:28.  Back to cited text no. 7
Choi JY, Lee SH. Does prenatal care increase access to child immunization? Gender bias among children in India. Soc Sci Med 2006;63:107-17.  Back to cited text no. 8
Khera R, Jain S, Lodha R, Ramakrishnan S. Gender bias in child care and child health: Global patterns. Arch Dis Child 2014;99:369-74.  Back to cited text no. 9
World Health Organization. Gender and Women’s Mental Health. Geneva: WHO Press; 2014. Available from: http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/. [Last accessed on 2017 Feb 17].  Back to cited text no. 10
Easterling D. Gender bias in domestic violence? J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv 2008;46:16.  Back to cited text no. 11


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