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Dr. Susan Sage Heinzelman, Director 2505 University Avenue, A4900, Burdine Hall 536, Austin Texas 78712 • 512-471-5765

Gender and Health

This research cluster is currently inactive.

The  past two decades have seen considerable activism by women to improve the quality of their health and health care. Recently men too have begun to draw attention to the negative implications of “maleness” for their health. There is an increasing danger that these campaigns could be drawn into conflict with each other as they compete for public sympathy and scarce resources. If conflict is to be avoided there needs to be a much clearer understanding of the impact of both sex and gender on health. Such understanding can then provide the foundation for gender-sensitive policies that take seriously the needs of both women and men.

Both gender differences and gender inequalities can give rise to inequities between men and women in health status and access to health care. For example:
A woman cannot receive needed health services because norms in her community prevent her from travelling alone to a clinic.
A teenage boy dies in a accident because of trying to live up to peers’ expectations that young men should be “bold” risk-takers.
A married woman contracts HIV because societal standards encourage her husband’s promiscuity while simultaneously preventing her from insisting on condom use.

In each of these cases, gender norms and values, and resulting behaviors, negatively affect health. In fact, the gender picture in a given time and place can be one of the major obstacles - sometimes the single most important obstacle - standing between an individual and the achievement of well-being.

The good news is that gender norms and values are not fixed, but evolve over time and vary substantially from place to place. Thus, the poor health consequences resulting from gender differences and gender inequalities can in turn be changed.

This research cluster is intended to promote interdisciplinary research on issues of women's health research, in its many manifestations, and relationships between gender and health. The cluster will promote research being undertaken by UT Austin faculty from different disciplines including but not limited to history, social work, nursing and medicine. Research methods include qualitative and quantitative approaches. In addition, the cluster emphasizes collaboration between communities within and outside of the university, such as the Waggoner Center, Toxicology Training Center, the Institute for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and Community Health Promotion Research, SafePlace, Planned Parenthood, and Jane's Due Process.

Former chair: Lynn Rew.

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