Unequal, unfair, ineffective and inefficient. Gender inequity in health: why it exists and how we can change it

Sen, G.; Ostlin, P.; George, A.
World Health Organisation
Publication date: 
January 2007

This report stresses the importance of working with men and boys to transform masculine norms and high-risk behaviours, to meet men’s differential health needs, and to address social inequalities and biases that influence men and women’s health risks and outcomes. The authors assert how gender inequality damages not only the health of women and girls, but also has emotional, psychological and physical consequences for men’s health, often manifested in risky and unhealthy behaviours, and reduced longevity. They also note how men’s poor health intersects with economics, race, class, sexual orientation, age and lifecycle. They draw on evidence to explain how health care systems and health research reproduce inequalities in different exposures and vulnerabilities for men and women’s health instead of resolving them.

The authors stress how the social context of men and women’s individual behaviour needs to be addressed so that men and women can be equally empowered to engage in health preventive and treatment behaviours. The authors suggest building awareness and transforming values among service provides to improve men and women’s access to health services, develop mechanisms for accountability, implement policies to address gender imbalances in health, and use gender sensitive indicators to guide policies, programs and service delivery. The report also documents successful efforts of NGOs, governments and agencies to address health inequities among men and women and highlights lessons learned from these approaches.

Publication place: 
Geneva, Switzerland
Sen, G. Ostlin, P. and George, A. (2007) 'Unequal, unfair, ineffective and inefficient. Gender inequity in health: why it exists and how we can change it,' Final report to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Women and Gender Equality Network, Geneva: World Health Organisation
engaging men
men's health