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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Gender Inequality Has Health Impact

High-quality programs that loosen restrictive gender norms can have a positive health impact, while women who defy communal norms can face negative consequences, according to research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

One study investigated three key ways of reducing gender disparities: gender transformative health programming (programs that actively seek to transform norms and improve health); large-scale laws and policies; and actions related to governance. Key factors for success included multi-level stakeholder participation, action beyond the health sector, diversified programming, and community empowerment.

“Increasing gender equality in political representation by, for example, having more women and gender minorities at the table, makes all of this possible,” said co-author Dr. Jessica Levy, associate professor of practice.

A second study compared Nigerian communities where working outside of the home was, and was not, a norm for women. Researchers found that women who defied communal norms by working outside of the home faced higher rates of intimate partner violence than did women workers in less restrictive communities.

“Acknowledging the complexity of the relationships between individual behavior and social norms, and understanding how discordance between the two might give rise to unintended negative outcomes for women and girls, is critical for developing truly gender-equitable policies and programs,” said co-author Dr. Lindsay Stark, associate professor.

The studies were recently published in The Lancet Series on Gender Equality, Norms, and Health.

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