The Women's Health Surveillance Report adopts the broad definition of women's health that provided the framework for the discussion on women and health at the Fourth World Conference on Women (the Beijing Conference), held in September 1995:
Women's health involves women's emotional, social, cultural, spiritual and physical well-being and is determined by the social, political and economic context of women's lives as well as by biology. This broad definition recognizes the validity of women's life experiences and women's own beliefs and experiences of health. Every woman should be provided with the opportunity to achieve, sustain and maintain health as defined by that woman herself to her full potential. [5
Further, this report attempts to take a gender-sensitive approach to health information where possible, taking into account the context of individual's lives (i.e. the social and cultural roles and responsibilities that differentiate women from men and subgroups of women from other subgroups). Its aim in part is to inform future gender-based analyses.
The authors of individual chapters have made use of population data from large Canadian surveys and administrative databases. Data chosen for analysis depended largely on the availability of the databases at the time of chapter development. Although such data sources can provide interesting insights, they also have limitations. For example, while they usually include a breakdown of the data by sex, they often do not provide sufficient measures by which to explore the influence of gender as determined by the context of women's lives. For example, depression is a major cause of disability worldwide. In Canada, as in other developed countries, the prevalence of depression is the same among boys and girls. After puberty, however, women are about twice as likely as men to experience a depressive episode [6
]. Traditional surveillance, such as hospitalization data or physician visits for depression, provides the data on these sex differences. What it does not provide is an analysis of how depression in women varies with income, ethnic background, education, and work experience, or how women's roles can shape their susceptibility to this condition (e.g. working double-duty shifts at home and in paid work while possibly experiencing harassment or abuse in either setting).*