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Lost in translation: Why studying sex/gender differences is not enough to move the dial on women’s health

March 18, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


UBC Health’s Health After 2020 program supports researchers to engage in interdisciplinary collaborations and build a community of UBC Health scholars. Through the development of research collaborations, academic outputs, cross-campus conversations, and open dialogue sessions, the program convenes and informs people at the inflection point in our society created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first dialogue session is on sex/gender differences and women’s health.

Health inequities abound across many sociodemographic groups, including those based on sex and gender. Sex/gender differences exist in disease etiology, manifestation, progression, and treatment. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have mandated the inclusion of sex in clinical trials and research; however, whether these mandates and initiatives will improve women’s health is a matter of debate.

Female-specific experiences greatly influence health, but studies on female-specific experiences are scarce. Studying sex differences exclusively will not address how female-specific experiences can impact health, which begs the question of whether NIH’s sex as a biological variable and CIHR’s sex and gender-based analysis go far enough. Women’s health is not just influenced by biology but also includes how gendered experiences influence health outcomes. Studying different experiences among females will lead to new treatments for them but may also give us clues for new pathways to investigate across sexes and genders.

In order to be better prepared for current and future health crises, such as COVID-19, there needs to be more research on women’s health. This dialogue session will outline why science needs to define and value women’s health by demonstrating that it is a distinct field of research.


Dr. Liisa Galea, Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of British Columbia
Dr. Gillian Einstein, Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Science, University of Toronto
Dr. Natasha Rajah, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, McGill University


UBC Health
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