Integrating and evaluating sex and gender in health research
- Suzanne Day
- Robin Mason,
- Stephanie Lagosky and
- Paula A. Rochon
Both sex (biological factors) and gender (socio-cultural factors) shape health. To produce the best possible health research evidence, it is essential to integrate sex and gender considerations throughout the research process. Despite growing recognition of the importance of these factors, progress towards sex and gender integration as standard practice has been both slow and uneven in health research. In this commentary, we examine the challenges of integrating sex and gender from the research perspective, as well as strategies that can be used by researchers, funders and journal editors to address these challenges. Barriers to the integration of sex and gender in health research include problems with inconsistent terminology, difficulties in applying the concepts of sex and gender, failure to recognise the impact of sex and gender, and challenges with data collection and datasets. We analyse these barriers as strategic points of intervention for improving the integration of sex and gender at all stages of the research process. To assess the relative success of these strategies in any given study, researchers, funders and journal editors would benefit from a tool to evaluate the quality of sex and gender integration in order to establish benchmarks in research excellence. These assessment tools are needed now amidst growing institutional recognition that both sex and gender are necessary elements for advancing the quality and utility of health research evidence.