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Francisco del Rey C. Investigación y género. Metas Enferm may 2019; 22(4):3
Cristina Francisco del Rey
Doctora. Profesora en la Universidad de Alcalá.Departamento de Enfermería.
Versión en Español
The objective of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, was to promote improvements for all women in the world. This event can be considered a major milestone in terms of acknowledging women’s rights; but, however, recent data have shown that there is still a gender gap in all social levels and in all settings where women and men live together.
One of these settings is overall research, as well as those matters associated specifically with women health.
There are still current studies where data are not even disaggregated by sex, regardless of the recommendations by the former Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs for the National Health Service, which promoted a review of health information systems in its Quality Plan of 2006, so that all data were separated by this variable. Of course, considering sex variable in studies as a differential risk factor between women and men is something exceptional, while disease causes and consequences are different between both.
In our setting, there is an exception among women committed to research on health and gender, or with a gender perspective, such as Concha Colomer or Carmen Valls, as well as Lucía Mazarrasa; it is necessary to highlight the studies on health and gender, as well as those about different aspects of health with a gender perspective.
It is essential to start researching with this perspective, because we women represent half of the population, and it would not be fair to leave women out of the progress represented by research, because women represent a social sector with higher vulnerability than men in all human development indicators and in all life aspects, except for life expectancy, which is longer but also with worse quality. This perspective is necessary also when it has been widely demonstrated that the improvements experienced by women have a more positive impact on family and on the community than improvements affecting men.
Epidemiological studies have been steadily developed with men only. Besides, clinical trials with women are very few, particularly in research where sex is involved as an essential variable of incidence, as is the case of studies on dosing, side effects and efficacy of medications. This also happens, for example, in research about coronary diseases, which has a very negative impact for diagnosing this type of conditions when a woman is experiencing them.
Continuing with the example of coronary diseases, because authors such as Bernardien Healy have studied them widely: when women are included in these studies, traditional variables are still considered, such as smoking, hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia; however, variables with gender sensitivity are not considered, such as the uneven overload in family care and housework, income, or type of paid work, for example. In the setting of nursing care, research with a gender perspective is essential due to the cultural aspects surrounding the practices entailed.
In order to understand the phenomena occurring, it is necessary to conduct studies in the settings in which these women live, where human relationships and subjectivity play an essential role, because in order to make visible the experiences of women it is essential that they are actively involved in the research. The essential elements to be considered in the research process are developed in the “Gender in Research Manual” by the European Commission (2009).
Gender equality is a Human Rights issue, because women are discriminated against, and gender perspective in research offers a more realistic look about what is researched; it also enriches the studies, because it allows to identify the situations of women. This contributes to gender equality, which is a matter of justice, an objective which becomes more meaningful when the realities to be studied are more vulnerable. Health and university settings must regard this as a matter for study and, therefore, for research.