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1.  Disability Transitions and Health Expectancies among Adults 45 Years and Older in Malawi: A Cohort-Based Model 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001435.
Collin Payne and colleagues investigated development of disabilities and years expected to live with disabilities in participants 45 years and older participating in the Malawi Longitudinal Survey of Families and Health.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Falling fertility and increasing life expectancy contribute to a growing elderly population in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); by 2060, persons aged 45 y and older are projected to be 25% of SSA's population, up from 10% in 2010. Aging in SSA is associated with unique challenges because of poverty and inadequate social supports. However, despite its importance for understanding the consequences of population aging, the evidence about the prevalence of disabilities and functional limitations due to poor physical health among older adults in SSA continues to be very limited.
Methods and Findings
Participants came from 2006, 2008, and 2010 waves of the Malawi Longitudinal Survey of Families and Health, a study of the rural population in Malawi. We investigate how poor physical health results in functional limitations that limit the day-to-day activities of individuals in domains relevant to this subsistence-agriculture context. These disabilities were parameterized based on questions from the SF-12 questionnaire about limitations in daily living activities. We estimated age-specific patterns of functional limitations and the transitions over time between different disability states using a discrete-time hazard model. The estimated transition rates were then used to calculate the first (to our knowledge) microdata-based health expectancies calculated for SSA. The risks of experiencing functional limitations due to poor physical health are high in this population, and the onset of disabilities happens early in life. Our analyses show that 45-y-old women can expect to spend 58% (95% CI, 55%–64%) of their remaining 28 y of life (95% CI, 25.7–33.5) with functional limitations; 45-y-old men can expect to live 41% (95% CI, 35%–46%) of their remaining 25.4 y (95% CI, 23.3–28.8) with such limitations. Disabilities related to functional limitations are shown to have a substantial negative effect on individuals' labor activities, and are negatively related to subjective well-being.
Conclusions
Individuals in this population experience a lengthy struggle with disabling conditions in adulthood, with high probabilities of remitting and relapsing between states of functional limitation. Given the strong association of disabilities with work efforts and subjective well-being, this research suggests that current national health policies and international donor-funded health programs in SSA inadequately target the physical health of mature and older adults.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The population of the world is getting older. In almost every country, the over-60 age group is growing faster than any other age group. In 2000, globally, there were about 605 million people aged 60 years or more; by 2050, 2 billion people will be in this age group. Much of this increase in the elderly population will be in low-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 10% of the population is currently aged 45 years or more, but by 2060, a quarter of the population will be so-called mature adults. In all countries, population aging is the result of women having fewer children (falling fertility) and people living longer (increasing life expectancy). Thus, population aging is a demographic transition, a change in birth and death rates. In low- and middle-income countries, population aging is occurring in parallel with an “epidemiological transition,” a shift from communicable (infectious) diseases to non-communicable diseases (for example, heart disease) as the primary causes of illness and death.
Why Was This Study Done?
Both the demographic and the epidemiological transition have public health implications for low-income countries. Good health is important for the independence and economic productivity of older people. Productive older people can help younger populations financially and physically, and help compensate for the limitations experienced by younger populations infected with HIV. Also, low-income countries lack social safety nets, so disabled older adults can be a burden on younger populations. Thus, the health of older individuals is important to the well-being of people of all ages. As populations age, low-income countries will need to invest in health care for mature and elderly adults and in disease prevention programs to prevent or delay the onset of non-communicable diseases, which can limit normal daily activities by causing disabilities. Before providing these services, national policy makers need to know the proportion of their population with disabilities, the functional limitations caused by poor physical health, and the health expectancies (the number of years a person can expect to be in good health) of older people in their country. In this cohort modeling study, the researchers estimate health expectancies and transition rates between different levels of disability among mature adults in Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, using data collected by the Malawi Longitudinal Survey of Families and Health (MLSFH) on economic, social, and health conditions in a rural population. Because Malawi has shorter life expectancies and earlier onset of disability than wealthier countries, the authors considered individuals aged 45 and older as mature adults at risk for disability.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers categorized the participants in the 2006, 2008, and 2010 waves of the MLSFH into three levels of functional limitation (healthy, moderately limited, and severely limited) based on answers to questions in the SF-12 health survey questionnaire that ask about disabilities that limit daily activities that rural Malawians perform. The researchers estimated age–gender patterns of functional limitations and transition rates between different disability states using a discrete-time hazard model, and health expectancies by running a microsimulation to model the aging of synthetic cohorts with various starting ages but the same gender and functional limitation distributions as the study population. These analyses show that the chance of becoming physically disabled rises sharply with age, with 45-year-old women in rural Malawi expected to spend 58% of their estimated remaining 28 years with functional limitations, and 45-year-old men expected to live 41% of their remaining 25.4 years with functional limitations. Also, on average, a 45-year-old woman will spend 2.7 years with moderate functional limitation and 0.6 years with severe functional limitation before she reaches 55; for men the corresponding values are 1.6 and 0.4 years. Around 50% of moderately and 60%–80% of severely limited individuals stated that pain interfered quite a bit or extremely with their normal work during the past four weeks, suggesting that pain treatment may help reduce disability.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that mature adults in rural Malawi will have some degree of disability during much of their remaining lifetime. The risks of experiencing functional limitations are higher and the onset of persistent disabilities happens earlier in Malawi than in more developed contexts—the proportions of remaining life spent with severe limitations at age 45 in Malawi are comparable to those of 80-year-olds in the US. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by assumptions made during modeling and by the quality of the data fed into the models. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that functional limitations, which have a negative effect on the labor activity of individuals, will become more prominent in Malawi (and probably other sub-Saharan countries) as the age composition of populations shifts over the coming years. Older populations in sub-Saharan Africa are not targeted well by health policies and programs at present. Consequently, these findings suggest that policy makers will need to ensure that additional financial resources are provided to improve health-care provision for aging individuals and to lessen the high rates of functional limitation and associated disabilities.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001435.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Andreas Stuck, et al.
The World Health Organization provides information on many aspects of aging (in several languages); the WHO Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) is compiling longitudinal information on the health and well-being of adult populations and the aging process
The United Nations Population Fund and HelpAge International publication Ageing in the Twenty-First Century is available
HelpAge International is an international nongovernmental organization that helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination, and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, and healthy lives
More information on the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001435
PMCID: PMC3646719  PMID: 23667343
2.  Patterns of Gender Equality at Workplaces and Psychological Distress 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53246.
Research in the field of occupational health often uses a risk factor approach which has been criticized by feminist researchers for not considering the combination of many different variables that are at play simultaneously. To overcome this shortcoming this study aims to identify patterns of gender equality at workplaces and to investigate how these patterns are associated with psychological distress. Questionnaire data from the Northern Swedish Cohort (n = 715) have been analysed and supplemented with register data about the participants' workplaces. The register data were used to create gender equality indicators of women/men ratios of number of employees, educational level, salary and parental leave. Cluster analysis was used to identify patterns of gender equality at the workplaces. Differences in psychological distress between the clusters were analysed by chi-square test and logistic regression analyses, adjusting for individual socio-demographics and previous psychological distress. The cluster analysis resulted in six distinctive clusters with different patterns of gender equality at the workplaces that were associated to psychological distress for women but not for men. For women the highest odds of psychological distress was found on traditionally gender unequal workplaces. The lowest overall occurrence of psychological distress as well as same occurrence for women and men was found on the most gender equal workplaces. The results from this study support the convergence hypothesis as gender equality at the workplace does not only relate to better mental health for women, but also more similar occurrence of mental ill-health between women and men. This study highlights the importance of utilizing a multidimensional view of gender equality to understand its association to health outcomes. Health policies need to consider gender equality at the workplace level as a social determinant of health that is of importance for reducing differences in health outcomes for women and men.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053246
PMCID: PMC3541387  PMID: 23326404
3.  Gender differences and determinants of health related quality of life in coronary patients: a follow-up study 
Background
The role of gender differences in Health Related Quality Life (HRQL) in coronary patients is controversial, so understanding the specific determinants of HRQL in men and women might be of clinical importance. The aim of this study was to know the gender differences in the evolution of HRQL at 3 and 6 months after a coronary event, and to identify the key clinical, demographic and psychological characteristics of each gender associated with these changes.
Methods
A follow-up study was carried out, and 175 patients (112 men and 63 women) with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) or unstable angina were studied. The SF-36v1 health questionnaire was used to assess HRQL, and the GHQ-28 (General Health Questionnaire) to measure mental health during follow-up. To study the variables related to changes in HRQL, generalized estimating equation (GEE) models were performed.
Results
Follow-up data were available for 55 men and 25 women at 3 months, and for 35 men and 12 women at 6 months. Observations included: a) Revascularization was performed later in women. b) The frequency of rehospitalization between months 3 and 6 of follow-up was higher in women c) Women had lower baseline scores in the SF-36. d) Men had progressed favourably in most of the physical dimensions of the SF-36 at 6 months, while at the same time women's scores had only improved for Physical Component Summary, Role Physical and Social Functioning; e) the variables determining the decrease in HRQL in men were: worse mental health and angina frequency; and in women: worse mental health, history of the disease, revascularization, and angina frequency.
Conclusions
There are differences in the evolution of HRQL, between men and women after a coronary attack. Mental health is the determinant most frequently associated with HRQL in both genders. However, other clinical determinants of HRQL differed with gender, emphasizing the importance of individualizing the intervention and the content of rehabilitation programs. Likewise, the recognition and treatment of mental disorders in these patients could be crucial.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-11-24
PMCID: PMC3125287  PMID: 21619566
Gender; HRQL; SF-36; Coronary patients
4.  Living Alone and Alcohol-Related Mortality: A Population-Based Cohort Study from Finland 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(9):e1001094.
Kimmo Herttua and colleagues showed that living alone is associated with a substantially increased risk of alcohol-related mortality, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic status, or cause of death, and that this effect was exacerbated after a price reduction in alcohol in 2004.
Background
Social isolation and living alone are increasingly common in industrialised countries. However, few studies have investigated the potential public health implications of this trend. We estimated the relative risk of death from alcohol-related causes among individuals living alone and determined whether this risk changed after a large reduction in alcohol prices.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a population-based natural experimental study of a change in the price of alcohol that occurred because of new laws enacted in Finland in January and March of 2004, utilising national registers. The data are based on an 11% sample of the Finnish population aged 15–79 y supplemented with an oversample of deaths. The oversample covered 80% of all deaths during the periods January 1, 2000–December 31, 2003 (the four years immediately before the price reduction of alcohol), and January 1, 2004–December 31, 2007 (the four years immediately after the price reduction). Alcohol-related mortality was defined using both underlying and contributory causes of death. During the 8-y follow-up about 18,200 persons died due to alcohol-related causes. Among married or cohabiting people the increase in alcohol-related mortality was small or non-existing between the periods 2000–2003 and 2004–2007, whereas for those living alone, this increase was substantial, especially in men and women aged 50–69 y. For liver disease in men, the most common fatal alcohol-related disease, the age-adjusted risk ratio associated with living alone was 3.7 (95% confidence interval 3.3, 4.1) before and 4.9 (95% CI 4.4, 5.4) after the price reduction (p<0.001 for difference in risk ratios). In women, the corresponding risk ratios were 1.7 (95% CI 1.4, 2.1) and 2.4 (95% CI 2.0, 2.9), respectively (p ≤ 0.01). Living alone was also associated with other mortality from alcohol-related diseases (range of risk ratios 2.3 to 8.0) as well as deaths from accidents and violence with alcohol as a contributing cause (risk ratios between 2.1 and 4.7), both before and after the price reduction.
Conclusions
Living alone is associated with a substantially increased risk of alcohol-related mortality, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic status, or the specific cause of death. The greater availability of alcohol in Finland after legislation-instituted price reductions in the first three months of 2004 increased in particular the relative excess in fatal liver disease among individuals living alone.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Throughout most of human history, people have lived in tight-knit communities where there was likely to be someone to turn to for help, advice, or company. But the modern way of life in industrialized countries is greatly reducing the quantity and quality of social relationships. Instead of living in extended families, many people now live miles away from their relatives, often living and working alone. Others commute long distances to work, which leaves little time for socializing with friends or relatives. And many delay or forgo getting married and having children. Consequently, loneliness and social isolation are getting more common. In the UK, according to a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 10% of people often feel lonely, a third have a close friend or relative who they think is very lonely, and half think people are getting lonelier in general. Similarly, over the past two decades, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of Americans who say they have no close confidants.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts think that loneliness is bad for human health. They point to studies that show that people with fewer social relationships die earlier on average than people with more social relationships. But does loneliness increase the risk of dying from specific causes? It is important to investigate the relationship between loneliness and cause-specific mortality (death) because, if for example, loneliness increases the risk of dying from alcohol-related causes (heavy drinking causes liver and heart damage, increases the risk of some cancers, contributes to depression, and increases the risk of death by violence or accident), doctors could advise their patients who live alone about safe drinking. But, although loneliness is recognized as both a contributor to and a consequence of alcohol abuse, there have been no large, population-based studies on the association between living alone and alcohol-related mortality. In this population-based study, the researchers estimate the association between living alone (an indicator of a lack of social relationships) and death from alcohol-related causes in Finland for four years before and four years after an alcohol price reduction in 2004 that increased alcohol consumption.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained information on about 80% of all people who died in Finland between 2000 and 2007 from Statistics Finland, which collects official Finnish statistics. During this period, about 18,200 people (two-thirds of whom lived alone) died from underlying alcohol-related causes (for example, liver disease and alcoholic poisoning) or contributory alcohol-related causes (for example, accidents, violence, and cardiovascular disease, with alcohol as a contributing cause). Among married and cohabiting people, the rate of alcohol-related mortality was similar in 2000–2003 and 2004–2007 but for people living alone (particularly those aged 50–69 years) the 2004 alcohol price reduction substantially increased the alcohol-related mortality rate. For liver disease in men, the risk ratio associated with living alone was 3.7 before and 4.9 after the price reduction. That is, between 2000 and 2003, men living alone were 3.7 times more likely to die of liver disease than married or cohabiting men; between 2004 and 2007, they were 4.9 times more likely to die of liver disease. In women, the corresponding risk ratios for liver disease were 1.7 and 2.4, respectively. Living alone was also associated with an increased risk of dying from other alcohol-related diseases and accidents and violence both before and after the price reduction.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in Finland, living alone is associated with an increased risk of alcohol-related mortality. Because of the study design, it is impossible to say whether living alone is a cause or a consequence of alcohol abuse, but the greater increase in alcohol-related deaths (particularly fatal liver disease) among people living alone compared to married and cohabiting people after the alcohol price reduction suggests that people living alone are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of increased alcohol availability. Further research in other countries is now needed to identify whether living alone is a cause or effect of alcohol abuse and to extend these findings to cultures where the pattern of alcohol consumption is different. However, the findings of this natural experiment suggest that living alone should be regarded as a potential risk marker for death from alcohol-related causes.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001094.
The Mental Health America Live Your Life Well webpage includes information about how social relationships improve mental and physical health
The Mental Health Foundation (a UK charity) presents the report The Lonely Society?
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has information about alcohol and its effects on health
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website on alcohol and public health that includes information on the health risks of excessive drinking
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about drinking and alcohol, including information on the risks of drinking too much, and personal stories about alcohol problems, including stories from people living alone (My drinks diary shock and I used to drink all day)
MedlinePlus provides links to many other resources on alcohol
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001094
PMCID: PMC3176753  PMID: 21949642
5.  HIV, Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, and Sex Work: A Qualitative Study of Intersectional Stigma Experienced by HIV-Positive Women in Ontario, Canada 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001124.
Mona Loutfy and colleagues used focus groups to examine experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Background
HIV infection rates are increasing among marginalized women in Ontario, Canada. HIV-related stigma, a principal factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic, interacts with structural inequities such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. The study objective was to explore experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a community-based qualitative investigation using focus groups to understand experiences of stigma and discrimination and coping methods among HIV-positive women from marginalized communities. We conducted 15 focus groups with HIV-positive women in five cities across Ontario, Canada. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis to enhance understanding of the lived experiences of diverse HIV-positive women. Focus group participants (n = 104; mean age = 38 years; 69% ethnic minority; 23% lesbian/bisexual; 22% transgender) described stigma/discrimination and coping across micro (intra/interpersonal), meso (social/community), and macro (organizational/political) realms. Participants across focus groups attributed experiences of stigma and discrimination to: HIV-related stigma, sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work. Coping strategies included resilience (micro), social networks and support groups (meso), and challenging stigma (macro).
Conclusions
HIV-positive women described interdependent and mutually constitutive relationships between marginalized social identities and inequities such as HIV-related stigma, sexism, racism, and homo/transphobia. These overlapping, multilevel forms of stigma and discrimination are representative of an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination. The present findings also suggest that micro, meso, and macro level factors simultaneously present barriers to health and well being—as well as opportunities for coping—in HIV-positive women's lives. Understanding the deleterious effects of stigma and discrimination on HIV risk, mental health, and access to care among HIV-positive women can inform health care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public health policy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
HIV-related stigma and discrimination—prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV—is a major factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic. HIV-related stigma, which devalues and stereotypes people living with HIV, increases vulnerability to HIV infection by reducing access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and support. At the personal (micro) level, HIV-related stigma can make it hard for people to take tests to determine their HIV status or to tell other people that they are HIV positive. At the social/community (meso) level, it can mean that HIV-positive people are ostracized from their communities. At the organizational/political (macro) level, it can mean that health-care workers treat HIV-positive people differently and that governments are deterred from taking fast, effective action against the HIV epidemic. In addition, HIV-related stigma is negatively associated with well-being among people living with HIV. Thus, among HIV-positive people, those who have experienced HIV-related stigma have higher levels of mental and physical illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Racism (oppression and inequity founded on ethno-racial differences), sexism and gender discrimination (oppression and inequity based on gender bias in attitudes), and homophobia and transphobia (discrimination, fear, hostility, and violence towards nonheterosexual and transgender people, respectively) can also affect access to HIV services. However, little is known about how these different forms of stigma and discrimination interact (intersect). A better understanding of the effect of intersecting stigmas on people living with HIV could help in the development of stigma reduction interventions and HIV prevention, treatment and care programs, and could help to control global HIV infection rates. In this qualitative study (an analysis of people's attitudes and experiences rather than numerical data), the researchers investigate the intersection of HIV-related stigma, racism, sexism and gender discrimination, homophobia and transphobia among marginalized HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada. As elsewhere in the world, HIV infection rates are increasing among women in Canada. Nearly 25% of people living with HIV in Canada are women and about a quarter of all new infections are in women. Moreover, there is a disproportionately high infection rate among marginalized women in Canada such as sex workers and lesbian, bisexual, and queer women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers held 15 focus groups with 104 marginalized HIV-positive women who were recruited by word-of-mouth and through flyers circulated in community agencies serving women of diverse ethno-cultural origins. Each focus group explored topics that included challenges in daily life, medical issues and needs, and issues that were silenced within the participants' communities. The researchers analyzed the data from these focus groups using thematic analysis, an approach that identifies, analyzes, and reports themes in qualitative data. They found that women living with HIV in Ontario experienced multiple types of stigma at different levels. So, for example, women experienced HIV-related stigma at the micro (“If you're HIV-positive, you feel shameful”), meso (“The thing I hate most for people that test positive for HIV is that society ostracizes them”), and macro (“A lot of women are not getting employed because they have to disclose their status”) levels. The women also attributed their experiences of stigma and discrimination to sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work at all three levels and described coping strategies at the micro (resilience; “I always live with hope”), meso (participation in social networks), and macro (challenging stigma) levels.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that marginalized HIV-positive women living in Ontario experience overlapping forms of stigma and discrimination and that these forms of stigma operate over micro, meso, and macro levels, as do the coping strategies adopted by the women. Together, these results support an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination that should help to inform discussions about the complexity of stigma and coping strategies. However, because only a small sample of nonrandomly selected women was involved in this study, these findings need to be confirmed in other groups of HIV-positive women. If confirmed, the complex system of interplay of different forms of stigma revealed here should help to inform health-care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public-health policy, and could, ultimately, help to bring the global HIV epidemic under control.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001124.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment; its publication HIV and stigma deals with HIV-related stigma in the UK
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV, and AIDS, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV/AIDS statistics for Canada (in English and Spanish)
The People Living with Stigma Index to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma; its website will soon include a selection of individual stories about HIV-related stigma
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001124
PMCID: PMC3222645  PMID: 22131907
6.  Gender inequalities in health among workers: the relation with family demands 
OBJECTIVES—To analyse whether there are gender inequalities in health among male and female workers who are married or cohabiting and to assess whether there are gender differences in the relation between family demands and health. Additionally, for both objectives it will be examined whether these gender patterns are similar for manual and non-manual workers.
DESIGN AND SETTING—The data have been taken from the 1994 Catalonian Health Survey (CHS), a cross sectional survey based on a representative sample of the non-institutionalised population of Catalonia, a region in the north east of Spain that has about 6 million inhabitants. The dependent variables were four ill health indicators (self perceived health status, limiting longstanding illness, having at least one chronic condition and mental health) and two health related behaviours closely related to having time for oneself (no leisure time physical activity and sleeping six hours or less a day). Family demands were measured with three variables: household size, living with children under 15 years and living with adults older than 65 years. The analysis was separated for gender and social class (manual and non-manual workers) and additionally adjusted for age. Gender differences for all dependent and independent variables were first tested at the bivariate level using the χ2 test for categorical variables and the t test for age. Secondly, multivariate logistic regression models were fitted.
PARTICIPANTS—Persons who were employed, married or cohabiting, aged 25 to 64 years (2148 men and 1185 women).
RESULTS—A female excess for all the ill health indicators was found, while there were no gender differences in the health related behaviours analysed. Family demands had a greater impact on health and health related behaviours of female manual workers. In this group household size was positively related to four dependent variables. The adjusted odds ratios (ORs) to living in family units of more than four persons versus living only with the spouse were 2.74 (95%CI=1.22, 6.17) for poor self perceived health status, 3.16 (95%CI=0.98, 10.15) for limiting long standing illness, 3.28 (95%CI=1.45, 7.44) for having at least one chronic condition, and 2.60 (95%CI=1.12, 6.00) for sleeping six hours or less a day. Among female manual workers living with children under 15 years was positively associated with no leisure time physical activity (adjusted OR=2.37; 95% CI=1.43, 3.92) and with sleeping six hours or less a day (adjusted OR=1.91; 95% CI=1.13, 3.32). Living with adults older than 65 years had an unexpected negative relation with poor self perceived health status (adjusted OR=0.33; 95%CI=0.16, 0.66), and with chronic conditions (adjusted OR=0.45; 95%CI=0.24, 0.87) in female manual workers. Among male manual workers living with children under 15 years was positively associated with longstanding limiting illness (adjusted OR=2.44; 95%CI=1.36, 4.38).
CONCLUSION—When gender differences in health are analysed, both the paid and the non-paid work should be considered as well as the interaction between these two dimensions, gender and social class. In Catalonia, as probably in Spain and in other countries, private changes such as sharing domestic responsibilities, as well as active public policies for facilitating family care are needed in order to reduce gender health inequalities attributable to the unequal distribution of family demands.


Keywords: sex factors; socioeconomic factors; family characteristics
doi:10.1136/jech.55.9.639
PMCID: PMC1731969  PMID: 11511642
7.  Reinterpreting Ethnic Patterns among White and African American Men Who Inject Heroin: A Social Science of Medicine Approach 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e452.
Background
Street-based heroin injectors represent an especially vulnerable population group subject to negative health outcomes and social stigma. Effective clinical treatment and public health intervention for this population requires an understanding of their cultural environment and experiences. Social science theory and methods offer tools to understand the reasons for economic and ethnic disparities that cause individual suffering and stress at the institutional level.
Methods and Findings
We used a cross-methodological approach that incorporated quantitative, clinical, and ethnographic data collected by two contemporaneous long-term San Francisco studies, one epidemiological and one ethnographic, to explore the impact of ethnicity on street-based heroin-injecting men 45 years of age or older who were self-identified as either African American or white. We triangulated our ethnographic findings by statistically examining 14 relevant epidemiological variables stratified by median age and ethnicity. We observed significant differences in social practices between self-identified African Americans and whites in our ethnographic social network sample with respect to patterns of (1) drug consumption; (2) income generation; (3) social and institutional relationships; and (4) personal health and hygiene. African Americans and whites tended to experience different structural relationships to their shared condition of addiction and poverty. Specifically, this generation of San Francisco injectors grew up as the children of poor rural to urban immigrants in an era (the late 1960s through 1970s) when industrial jobs disappeared and heroin became fashionable. This was also when violent segregated inner city youth gangs proliferated and the federal government initiated its “War on Drugs.” African Americans had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families. Most of the whites were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime. These historical-structural conditions generated distinct presentations of self. Whites styled themselves as outcasts, defeated by addiction. They professed to be injecting heroin to stave off “dopesickness” rather than to seek pleasure. African Americans, in contrast, cast their physical addiction as an oppositional pursuit of autonomy and pleasure. They considered themselves to be professional outlaws and rejected any appearance of abjection. Many, but not all, of these ethnographic findings were corroborated by our epidemiological data, highlighting the variability of behaviors within ethnic categories.
Conclusions
Bringing quantitative and qualitative methodologies and perspectives into a collaborative dialog among cross-disciplinary researchers highlights the fact that clinical practice must go beyond simple racial or cultural categories. A clinical social science approach provides insights into how sociocultural processes are mediated by historically rooted and institutionally enforced power relations. Recognizing the logical underpinnings of ethnically specific behavioral patterns of street-based injectors is the foundation for cultural competence and for successful clinical relationships. It reduces the risk of suboptimal medical care for an exceptionally vulnerable and challenging patient population. Social science approaches can also help explain larger-scale patterns of health disparities; inform new approaches to structural and institutional-level public health initiatives; and enable clinicians to take more leadership in changing public policies that have negative health consequences.
Bourgois and colleagues found that the African American and white men in their study had a different pattern of drug use and risk behaviors, adopted different strategies for survival, and had different personal histories.
Editors' Summary
Background.
There are stark differences in the health of different ethnic groups in America. For example, the life expectancy for white men is 75.4 years, but it is only 69.2 years for African-American men. The reasons behind these disparities are unclear, though there are several possible explanations. Perhaps, for example, different ethnic groups are treated differently by health professionals (with some groups receiving poorer quality health care). Or maybe the health disparities are due to differences across ethnic groups in income level (we know that richer people are healthier). These disparities are likely to persist unless we gain a better understanding of how they arise.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to study the health of a very vulnerable community of people: heroin users living on the streets in the San Francisco Bay Area. The health status of this community is extremely poor, and its members are highly stigmatized—including by health professionals themselves. The researchers wanted to know whether African American men and white men who live on the streets have a different pattern of drug use, whether they adopt varying strategies for survival, and whether they have different personal histories. Knowledge of such differences would help the health community to provide more tailored and culturally appropriate interventions. Physicians, nurses, and social workers often treat street-based drug users, especially in emergency rooms and free clinics. These health professionals regularly report that their interactions with street-based drug users are frustrating and confrontational. The researchers hoped that their study would help these professionals to have a better understanding of the cultural backgrounds and motivations of their drug-using patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Over the course of six years, the researchers directly observed about 70 men living on the streets who injected heroin as they went about their usual lives (this type of research is called “participant observation”). The researchers specifically looked to see whether there were differences between the white and African American men. All the men gave their consent to be studied in this way and to be photographed. The researchers also studied a database of interviews with almost 7,000 injection drug users conducted over five years, drawing out the data on differences between white and African men. The researchers found that the white men were more likely to supplement their heroin use with inexpensive fortified wine, while African American men were more likely to supplement heroin with crack. Most of the white men were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime, and these men tended to consider themselves as destitute outcasts. African American men had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families, and these men tended to consider themselves as professional outlaws. The white men persevered less in attempting to find a vein in which to inject heroin, and so were more likely to inject the drug directly under the skin—this meant that they were more likely to suffer from skin abscesses. The white men generated most of their income from panhandling (begging for money), while the African American men generated most of their income through petty crime and/or through offering services such as washing car windows at gas stations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Among street-based heroin users, there are important differences between white men and African American men in the type of drugs used, the method of drug use, their social backgrounds, the way in which they identify themselves, and the health risks that they take. By understanding these differences, health professionals should be better placed to provide tailored and appropriate care when these men present to clinics and emergency rooms. As the researchers say, “understanding of different ethnic populations of drug injectors may reduce difficult clinical interactions and resultant physician frustration while improving patient access and adherence to care.” One limitation of this study is that the researchers studied one specific community in one particular area of the US—so we should not assume that their findings would apply to street-based heroin users elsewhere.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030452.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a web page on HIV prevention among injection drug users
The World Health Organization has collected documents on reducing the risk of HIV in injection drug users and on harm reduction approaches
The International Harm Reduction Association has information relevant to a global audience on reducing drug-related harm among individuals and communities
US-focused information on harm reduction is available via the websites of the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Chicago Recovery Alliance
Canada-focused information can be found at the Street Works Web site
The Harm Reduction Journal publishes open-access articles
The CDC has a web page on eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities
The Drug Policy Alliance has a web page on drug policy in the United States
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030452
PMCID: PMC1621100  PMID: 17076569
8.  How equal is the relationship between individual social capital and psychological distress? A gendered analysis using cross-sectional data from Ghent (Belgium) 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):960.
Background
Social capital has been related to various aspects of health. While literature suggests that men and women differently access and mobilize social capital, gender has received little attention within social capital research. This study examines whether the association between individual social capital and psychological distress is different for men and women.
Methods
We made use of data from a representative sample of 1025 adults within 50 neighbourhoods of Ghent (Belgium), collected in the context of the cross-sectional Social capital and Well-being In Neighbourhoods in Ghent (SWING) Survey 2011. Six components of social capital were discerned: generalized trust, social support, social influence, social engagement and attachment, the volume of social capital and the mean occupational prestige in one’s network. Multilevel linear regression models were fitted to explore interactions between gender and these components of social capital.
Results
In accordance with previous research, men report lower levels of psychological distress than women (t = 4.40, p < 0.001). Regarding the gender gap in social capital, the findings are mixed. Only for half of the social capital variables (social support, social influence and volume of social capital), a significant gender difference is found, favouring men (t = 4.03, p < 0.001; t = 1.99, p < 0.001 and t = 4.50, p < 0.001 respectively). None of the analysed interaction terms between gender and social capital is significantly related to psychological distress.
Conclusion
The analyses indicate that the association between individual social capital and psychological distress is similar for men and women. The relatively low level of gender stratification in Belgium might have influenced this finding. Furthermore, it is possible that social capital is not of greater importance for women in general, but mainly for women who are in an especially vulnerable social situation that deprives their access to alternative resources (e.g. unemployed women, single mothers). Future studies should seek to identify subgroups for whom social capital might be particularly influential, by transcending ‘simple’ dyads such as ‘men versus women’.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-960) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-960
PMCID: PMC4177588  PMID: 25228201
Social capital; Gender; Psychological distress; Health inequalities
9.  Prevalence, Distribution, and Impact of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Latin America, China, and India: A 10/66 Population-Based Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001170.
A set of cross-sectional surveys carried out in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, China, and India reveal the prevalence and between-country variation in mild cognitive impairment at a population level.
Background
Rapid demographic ageing is a growing public health issue in many low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs). Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a construct frequently used to define groups of people who may be at risk of developing dementia, crucial for targeting preventative interventions. However, little is known about the prevalence or impact of MCI in LAMIC settings.
Methods and Findings
Data were analysed from cross-sectional surveys established by the 10/66 Dementia Research Group and carried out in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, China, and India on 15,376 individuals aged 65+ without dementia. Standardised assessments of mental and physical health, and cognitive function were carried out including informant interviews. An algorithm was developed to define Mayo Clinic amnestic MCI (aMCI). Disability (12-item World Health Organization disability assessment schedule [WHODAS]) and informant-reported neuropsychiatric symptoms (neuropsychiatric inventory [NPI-Q]) were measured. After adjustment, aMCI was associated with disability, anxiety, apathy, and irritability (but not depression); between-country heterogeneity in these associations was only significant for disability. The crude prevalence of aMCI ranged from 0.8% in China to 4.3% in India. Country differences changed little (range 0.6%–4.6%) after standardization for age, gender, and education level. In pooled estimates, aMCI was modestly associated with male gender and fewer assets but was not associated with age or education. There was no significant between-country variation in these demographic associations.
Conclusions
An algorithm-derived diagnosis of aMCI showed few sociodemographic associations but was consistently associated with higher disability and neuropsychiatric symptoms in addition to showing substantial variation in prevalence across LAMIC populations. Longitudinal data are needed to confirm findings—in particular, to investigate the predictive validity of aMCI in these settings and risk/protective factors for progression to dementia; however, the large number affected has important implications in these rapidly ageing settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Currently, more than 35 million people worldwide have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. Dementia, the commonest form of which is Alzheimer's disease, mainly affects older people and, because more people than ever are living to a ripe old age, experts estimate that, by 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia. At present, there is no cure for dementia although drugs can be used to manage some of the symptoms. Risk factors for dementia include physical inactivity, infrequent participation in mentally or socially stimulating activities, and common vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking. In addition, some studies have reported that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is associated with an increased risk of dementia. MCI can be seen as an intermediate state between normal cognitive aging (becoming increasingly forgetful) and dementia although many people with MCI never develop dementia, and some types of MCI can be static or self-limiting. Individuals with MCI have cognitive problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of a similar age but they have no other symptoms of dementia and are able to look after themselves. The best studied form of MCI—amnestic MCI (aMCI)—is characterized by memory problems such as misplacing things and forgetting appointments.
Why Was This Study Done?
Much of the expected increase in dementia will occur in low and middle income countries (LAMICs) because these countries have rapidly aging populations. Given that aMCI is frequently used to define groups of people who may be at risk of developing dementia, it would be useful to know what proportion of community-dwelling older adults in LAMICs have aMCI (the prevalence of aMCI). Such information might help governments plan their future health care and social support needs. In this cross-sectional, population-based study, the researchers estimate the prevalence of aMCI in eight LAMICs using data collected by the 10/66 Dementia Research Group. They also investigate the association of aMCI with sociodemographic factors (for example, age, gender, and education), disability, and neuropsychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, apathy, irritability, and depression. A cross-sectional study collects data on a population at a single time point; the 10/66 Dementia Research Group is building an evidence base to inform the development and implementation of policies for improving the health and social welfare of older people in LAMICs, particularly people with dementia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In cross-sectional surveys carried out in six Latin American LAMICS, China, and India, more than 15,000 elderly individuals without dementia completed standardized assessments of their mental and physical health and their cognitive function. Interviews with relatives and carers provided further details about the participant's cognitive decline and about neuropsychiatric symptoms. The researchers developed an algorithm (set of formulae) that used the data collected in these surveys to diagnose aMCI in the study participants. Finally, they used statistical methods to analyze the prevalence, distribution, and impact of aMCI in the eight LAMICs. The researchers report that aMCI was associated with disability, anxiety, apathy, and irritability but not with depression and that the prevalence of aMCI ranged from 0.8% in China to 4.3% in India. Other analyses show that, considered across all eight countries, aMCI was modestly associated with being male (men had a slightly higher prevalence of aMCI than women) and with having fewer assets but was not associated with age or education.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that aMCI, as diagnosed using the algorithm developed by the researchers, is consistently associated with higher disability and with neuropsychiatric symptoms in the LAMICs studied but not with most sociodemographic factors. Because prevalidated and standardized measurements were applied consistently in all the countries and a common algorithm was used to define aMCI, these findings also suggest that the prevalence of aMCI varies markedly among LAMIC populations and is similar to or slightly lower than the prevalence most often reported for European and North American populations. Although longitudinal studies are now needed to investigate the extent to which aMCI can be used as risk marker for further cognitive decline and dementia in these settings, the large absolute numbers of older people with aMCI in LAMICs revealed here potentially has important implications for health care and social service planning in these rapidly aging and populous regions of the world.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001170.
Alzheimer's Disease International is the international federation of Alzheimer associations around the world; it provides links to individual associations, information about dementia, and links to three World Alzheimer Reports; information about the 10/66 Dementia Research Group is also available on this web site
The Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and carers about dementia, including information on MCI and personal stories about living with dementia
The Alzheimer's Association also provides information for patients and carers about dementia and about MCI, and personal stories about dementia
A BBC radio program that includes an interview with a man with MCI is available
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about MCI and dementia (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001170
PMCID: PMC3274506  PMID: 22346736
10.  Gender differences in predictors of self-rated health in Armenia: a population-based study of an economy in transition 
Introduction
Self-rated health is a widely used health outcome measure that strongly correlates with physical and mental health status and predicts mortality. This study identified the set of predictors of fair/poor self-rated health in adult female and male populations of Armenia during a period of long-lasting socio-economic transition to a market economy.
Methods
Differences in self-rated health were analyzed along three dimensions: socioeconomic, behavioral/attitudinal, and psychosocial. The study utilized data from a 2006 nationwide household health survey that used a multi-stage probability proportional to size cluster sampling with a combination of interviewer-administered and self-administered surveys. Both female and male representatives of a household aged 18 and over completed the self-administered survey. Multivariate odds ratios (OR) for fair/poor self-rated health were calculated for different sets of variables and logistic regression models fitted separately for women and men to identify the determinants of fair/poor self-rated health.
Results
Overall, 2310 women and 462 men participated in the survey. The rate of fair/poor self-rated health was 61.8% among women and 59.7% among men. For women, the set of independent predictors of fair/poor self-rated health included age, unemployment, poverty, low affordability of healthcare, depression, and weak social support. For men, the set included age, lower education, depression, weak social support, and drinking alcohol less than once a week. For both genders, depression and weak social support demonstrated the strongest independent association with fair/poor self-rated health.
Conclusions
The prevalence of fair/poor self-rated health was similar among men and women in this study, but the sets of independent predictors of perceived health differed somewhat, possibly, reflecting lifestyle differences between men and women in Armenia. Nevertheless, psychosocial variables were the strongest predictors of fair/poor self-rated health for both genders, indicating the importance of improving the country’s psychosocial environment through social reforms and poverty reduction.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-67
PMCID: PMC3544611  PMID: 23151068
Armenia; Self-rated health; Depression; Social support; Poverty; Psychosocial pathways
11.  The Reversal of Fortunes: Trends in County Mortality and Cross-County Mortality Disparities in the United States  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e66.
Background
Counties are the smallest unit for which mortality data are routinely available, allowing consistent and comparable long-term analysis of trends in health disparities. Average life expectancy has steadily increased in the United States but there is limited information on long-term mortality trends in the US counties This study aimed to investigate trends in county mortality and cross-county mortality disparities, including the contributions of specific diseases to county level mortality trends.
Methods and Findings
We used mortality statistics (from the National Center for Health Statistics [NCHS]) and population (from the US Census) to estimate sex-specific life expectancy for US counties for every year between 1961 and 1999. Data for analyses in subsequent years were not provided to us by the NCHS. We calculated different metrics of cross-county mortality disparity, and also grouped counties on the basis of whether their mortality changed favorably or unfavorably relative to the national average. We estimated the probability of death from specific diseases for counties with above- or below-average mortality performance. We simulated the effect of cross-county migration on each county's life expectancy using a time-based simulation model. Between 1961 and 1999, the standard deviation (SD) of life expectancy across US counties was at its lowest in 1983, at 1.9 and 1.4 y for men and women, respectively. Cross-county life expectancy SD increased to 2.3 and 1.7 y in 1999. Between 1961 and 1983 no counties had a statistically significant increase in mortality; the major cause of mortality decline for both sexes was reduction in cardiovascular mortality. From 1983 to 1999, life expectancy declined significantly in 11 counties for men (by 1.3 y) and in 180 counties for women (by 1.3 y); another 48 (men) and 783 (women) counties had nonsignificant life expectancy decline. Life expectancy decline in both sexes was caused by increased mortality from lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and a range of other noncommunicable diseases, which were no longer compensated for by the decline in cardiovascular mortality. Higher HIV/AIDS and homicide deaths also contributed substantially to life expectancy decline for men, but not for women. Alternative specifications of the effects of migration showed that the rise in cross-county life expectancy SD was unlikely to be caused by migration.
Conclusions
There was a steady increase in mortality inequality across the US counties between 1983 and 1999, resulting from stagnation or increase in mortality among the worst-off segment of the population. Female mortality increased in a large number of counties, primarily because of chronic diseases related to smoking, overweight and obesity, and high blood pressure.
Majid Ezzati and colleagues analyze US county-level mortality data for 1961 to 1999, and find a steady increase in mortality inequality across counties between 1983 and 1999.
Editors' Summary
Background.
It has long been recognized that the number of years that distinct groups of people in the United States would be expected to live based on their current mortality patterns (“life expectancy”) varies enormously. For example, white Americans tend to live longer than black Americans, the poor tend to have shorter life expectancies than the wealthy, and women tend to outlive men. Where one lives might also be a factor that determines his or her life expectancy, because of social conditions and health programs in different parts of the country.
Why Was the Study Done?
While life expectancies have generally been rising across the United States over time, there is little information, especially over the long term, on the differences in life expectancies across different counties. The researchers therefore set out to examine whether there were different life expectancies across different US counties over the last four decades. The researchers chose to look at counties—the smallest geographic units for which data on death rates are collected in the US—because it allowed them to make comparisons between small subgroups of people that share the same administrative structure.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers looked at differences in death rates between all counties in US states plus the District of Columbia over four decades, from 1961 to 1999. They obtained the data on number of deaths from the National Center for Health Statistics, and they obtained data on the number of people living in each county from the US Census. The NCHS did not provide death data after 2001. They broke the death rates down by sex and by disease to assess trends over time for women and men, and for different causes of death.
Over these four decades, the researchers found that the overall US life expectancy increased from 67 to 74 years of age for men and from 74 to 80 years for women. Between 1961 and 1983 the death rate fell in both men and women, largely due to reductions in deaths from cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke). During this same period, 1961–1983, the differences in death rates among/across different counties fell. However, beginning in the early 1980s the differences in death rates among/across different counties began to increase. The worst-off counties no longer experienced a fall in death rates, and in a substantial number of counties, mortality actually increased, especially for women, a shift that the researchers call “the reversal of fortunes.” This stagnation in the worst-off counties was primarily caused by a slowdown or halt in the reduction of deaths from cardiovascular disease coupled with a moderate rise in a number of other diseases, such as lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and diabetes, in both men and women, and a rise in HIV/AIDS and homicide in men. The researchers' key finding, therefore, was that the differences in life expectancy across different counties initially narrowed and then widened.
What Do these Findings Mean?
The findings suggest that beginning in the early 1980s and continuing through 1999 those who were already disadvantaged did not benefit from the gains in life expectancy experienced by the advantaged, and some became even worse off. The study emphasizes how important it is to monitor health inequalities between different groups, in order to ensure that everyone—and not just the well-off—can experience gains in life expectancy. Although the “reversal of fortune” that the researchers found applied to only a minority of the population, the authors argue that their study results are troubling because an oft-stated aim of the US health system is the improvement of the health of “all people, and especially those at greater risk of health disparities” (see, for example http://www.cdc.gov/osi/goals/SIHPGPostcard.pdf).
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050066.
A study by Nancy Krieger and colleagues, published in PLoS Medicine in February 2008, documented a similar “fall and rise” in health inequities. Krieger and colleagues reported that the difference in health between rich and poor and between different racial/ethnic groups, as measured by rates of dying young and of infant deaths, shrank in the US from 1966 to 1980 then widened from 1980 to 2002
Murray and colleagues, in a 2006 PLoS Medicine article, calculated US mortality rates according to “race-county” units and divided into the “eight Americas,” and found disparities in life expectancy across them
The US Centers for Disease Control has an Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. The office “aims to accelerate CDC's health impact in the US population and to eliminate health disparities for vulnerable populations as defined by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geography, gender, age, disability status, risk status related to sex and gender, and among other populations identified to be at-risk for health disparities”
Wikipedia has a chapter on health disparities (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
In 2001 the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality sponsored a workshop on “strategies to reduce health disparities”
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050066
PMCID: PMC2323303  PMID: 18433290
12.  Gender equity and sexual and reproductive health in Eastern and Southern Africa: a critical overview of the literature 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.23717.
Background
Gender inequalities are important social determinants of health. We set out to critically review the literature relating to gender equity and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in Eastern and Southern Africa with the aim of identifying priorities for action.
Design
During November 2011, we identified studies relating to SRH and gender equity through a comprehensive literature search.
Results
We found gender inequalities to be common across a range of health issues relating to SRH with women being particularly disadvantaged. Social and biological determinants combined to increase women's vulnerability to maternal mortality, HIV, and gender-based violence. Health systems significantly disadvantaged women in terms of access to care. Men fared worse in relation to HIV testing and care with social norms leading to men presenting later for treatment.
Conclusions
Gender inequity in SRH requires multiple complementary approaches to address the structural drivers of unequal health outcomes. These could include interventions that alter the structural environment in which ill-health is created. Interventions are required both within and beyond the health system.
doi:10.3402/gha.v7.23717
PMCID: PMC4074359  PMID: 24972916
gender equity; sexual & reproductive health; Eastern and Southern Africa
13.  Gender differences in the association of perceived social support and social network with self-rated health status among older adults: a population-based study in Brazil 
BMC Geriatrics  2013;13:122.
Background
Older adults are more likely to live alone, because they may have been predeceased by their spouse and friends. Social interaction could also be reduced in this age group due by limited mobility caused by chronic conditions. Therefore, aging is frequently accompanied by reduced social support, which might affect health status. Little is known about the role of gender in the relationship between social support and health in older adults. Hence, the present study tests the hypothesis that gender differences exist in the relationship between perceived social support, social network, and self-rated health (SRH) among older adults.
Methods
A cross-sectional study using two-stage probabilistic sampling recruited 3,649 individuals aged 60 years and above. Data were collected during the national influenza vaccination campaign in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2006. Individual interviews collected information on SRH, perceived social support, social network, and other covariates. Multivariate logistic regression analyses using nested models were conducted separately for males and females. Independent variables were organised into six blocks: (1) perceived social support and social network, (2) age group, (3) socioeconomic characteristics, (4) health-related behaviours, (5) use of health care services, (6) functional status measures and somatic health problems.
Results
Older men who did not participate in group activities were more likely to report poor SRH compared to those who did, (OR = 1.63; 95% CI = 1.16–2.30). Low perceived social support predicted the probability of poor SRH in women (OR = 1.64; 95% CI = 1.16–2.34). Poor SRH was associated with low age, low income, not working, poor functional capacity, and depression in both men and women. More somatic health problems were associated with poor SRH in women.
Conclusions
The association between social interactions and SRH varies between genders. Low social network involvement is associated with poor SRH in older men, whereas low perceived social support is associated with poor SRH in older women. The hypothesis that the relationship of perceived social support and social networks to SRH differs according to gender has been confirmed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2318-13-122
PMCID: PMC4225700  PMID: 24229389
Older adults; Perceived social support; Social networks; Social inequality
14.  The Fall and Rise of US Inequities in Premature Mortality: 1960–2002 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e46.
Background
Debates exist as to whether, as overall population health improves, the absolute and relative magnitude of income- and race/ethnicity-related health disparities necessarily increase—or derease. We accordingly decided to test the hypothesis that health inequities widen—or shrink—in a context of declining mortality rates, by examining annual US mortality data over a 42 year period.
Methods and Findings
Using US county mortality data from 1960–2002 and county median family income data from the 1960–2000 decennial censuses, we analyzed the rates of premature mortality (deaths among persons under age 65) and infant death (deaths among persons under age 1) by quintiles of county median family income weighted by county population size. Between 1960 and 2002, as US premature mortality and infant death rates declined in all county income quintiles, socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequities in premature mortality and infant death (both relative and absolute) shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for US populations of color; thereafter, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences barely changed in magnitude. Had all persons experienced the same yearly age-specific premature mortality rates as the white population living in the highest income quintile, between 1960 and 2002, 14% of the white premature deaths and 30% of the premature deaths among populations of color would not have occurred.
Conclusions
The observed trends refute arguments that health inequities inevitably widen—or shrink—as population health improves. Instead, the magnitude of health inequalities can fall or rise; it is our job to understand why.
Nancy Krieger and colleagues found evidence of decreasing, and then increasing or stagnating, socioeconomic and racial inequities in US premature mortality and infant death from 1960 to 2002.
Editors' Summary
Background
One of the biggest aims of public health advocates and governments is to improve the health of the population. Improving health increases people's quality of life and helps the population be more economically productive. But within populations are often persistent differences (usually called “disparities” or “inequities”) in the health of different subgroups—between women and men, different income groups, and people of different races/ethnicities, for example. Researchers study these differences so that policy makers and the broader public can be informed about what to do to intervene. For example, if we know that the health of certain subgroups of the population—such as the poor—is staying the same or even worsening as the overall health of the population is improving, policy makers could design programs and devote resources to specifically target the poor.
To study health disparities, researchers use both relative and absolute measures. Relative inequities refer to ratios, while absolute inequities refer to differences. For example, if one group's average income level increases from $1,000 to $10,000 and another group's from $2,000 to $20,000, the relative inequality between the groups stays the same (i.e., the ratio of incomes between the two groups is still 2) but the absolute difference between the two groups has increased from $1,000 to $10,000.
Examining the US population, Nancy Krieger and colleagues looked at trends over time in both relative and absolute differences in mortality between people in different income groups and between whites and people of color.
Why Was This Study Done?
There has been a lot of debate about whether disparities have been widening or narrowing as overall population health improves. Some research has found that both total health and health disparities are getting better with time. Other research has shown that overall health gains mask worsening disparities—such that the rich get healthier while the poor get sicker.
Having access to more data over a longer time frame meant that Krieger and colleagues could provide a more complete picture of this sometimes contradictory story. It also meant they could test their hypothesis about whether, as population health improves, health inequities necessarily widen or shrink within the time period between the 1960s through the 1990s during which certain events and policies likely would have had an impact on the mortality trends in that country.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to investigate health inequities, the authors chose to look at two common measures of population health: rates of premature mortality (dying before the age of 65 years) and rates of infant mortality (death before the age of 1).
To determine mortality rates, the authors used death statistics data from different counties, which are routinely collected by state and national governments. To be able to rank mortality rates for different income groups, they used data on the median family incomes of people living within those counties (meaning half the families had income above, and half had incomes below, the median value). They calculated mortality rates for the total population and for whites versus people of color. They used data from 1960 through 2002. They compared rates for 1966–1980 with two other time periods: 1960–1965 and 1981–2002. They also examined trends in the annual mortality rates and in the annual relative and absolute disparites in these rates by county income level.
Over the whole period 1960–2002, the authors found that premature mortality (death before the age of 65) and infant mortality (death before the age of 1) decreased for all income groups. But they also found that disparities between income groups and between whites and people of color were not the same over this time period. In fact, the economic disparities narrowed then widened. First, they shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for Americans of color. After 1980, however, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences did not change. The authors conclude that if all people in the US population experienced the same health gains as the most advantaged did during these 42 years (i.e., as the whites in the highest income groups), 14% of the premature deaths among whites and 30% of the premature deaths among people of color would have been prevented.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings provide an overview of the trends in inequities in premature and infant mortality over a long period of time. Different explanations for these trends can now be tested. The authors discuss several potential reasons for these trends, including generally rising incomes across America and changes related to specific diseases, such as the advent of HIV/AIDS, changes in smoking habits, and better management of cancer and cardiovascular disease. But they find that these do not explain the fall then rise of inequities. Instead, the authors suggest that explanations lie in the social programs of the 1960s and the subsequent roll-back of some of these programmes in the 1980s. The US “War on Poverty,” civil rights legislation, and the establishment of Medicare occurred in the mid 1960s, which were intended to reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequalities and improve access to health care. In the 1980s there was a general cutting back of welfare state provisions in America, which included cuts to public health and antipoverty programs, tax relief for the wealthy, and worsening inequity in the access to and quality of health care. Together, these wider events could explain the fall then rise trends in mortality disparities.
The authors say their findings are important to inform and help monitor the progress of various policies and programmes, including those such as the Healthy People 2010 initiative in America, which aims to increase the quality and years of healthy life and decrease health disparities by the end of this decade.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed. 0050046.
Healthy People 2010 was created by the US Department of Health and Human Services along with scientists inside and outside of government and includes a comprehensive set of disease prevention and health promotion objectives for the US to achieve by 2010, with two overarching goals: to increase quality and years of healthy life and to eliminate health disparities
Johan Mackenbach and colleagues provide an overview of mortality inequalities in six Western European countries—Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England/Wales, and Italy—and conclude that eliminating mortality inequalities requires that more cardiovascular deaths among lower socioeconomic groups be prevented, as well as more attention be paid to rising death rates of lung cancer, breast cancer, respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disease, and injuries among women and men in the lower income groups.
The WHO Health for All program promotes health equity
A primer on absolute versus relative differences is provided by the American College of Physicians
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050046
PMCID: PMC2253609  PMID: 18303941
15.  Gender equality in couples and self-rated health - A survey study evaluating measurements of gender equality and its impact on health 
Background
Men and women have different patterns of health. These differences between the sexes present a challenge to the field of public health. The question why women experience more health problems than men despite their longevity has been discussed extensively, with both social and biological theories being offered as plausible explanations. In this article, we focus on how gender equality in a partnership might be associated with the respondents' perceptions of health.
Methods
This study was a cross-sectional survey with 1400 respondents. We measured gender equality using two different measures: 1) a self-reported gender equality index, and 2) a self-perceived gender equality question. The aim of comparison of the self-reported gender equality index with the self-perceived gender equality question was to reveal possible disagreements between the normative discourse on gender equality and daily practice in couple relationships. We then evaluated the association with health, measured as self-rated health (SRH). With SRH dichotomized into 'good' and 'poor', logistic regression was used to assess factors associated with the outcome. For the comparison between the self-reported gender equality index and self-perceived gender equality, kappa statistics were used.
Results
Associations between gender equality and health found in this study vary with the type of gender equality measurement. Overall, we found little agreement between the self-reported gender equality index and self-perceived gender equality. Further, the patterns of agreement between self-perceived and self-reported gender equality were quite different for men and women: men perceived greater gender equality than they reported in the index, while women perceived less gender equality than they reported. The associations to health were depending on gender equality measurement used.
Conclusions
Men and women perceive and report gender equality differently. This means that it is necessary not only to be conscious of the methods and measurements used to quantify men's and women's opinions of gender equality, but also to be aware of the implications for health outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-37
PMCID: PMC3167759  PMID: 21871087
gender equality; health; index; gender differences
16.  Health Behaviours, Socioeconomic Status, and Mortality: Further Analyses of the British Whitehall II and the French GAZEL Prospective Cohorts 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(2):e1000419.
Further analysis of data from two prospective cohorts reveals differences in the extent to which health behaviors attenuate associations between socioeconomic position and mortality outcomes.
Background
Differences in morbidity and mortality between socioeconomic groups constitute one of the most consistent findings of epidemiologic research. However, research on social inequalities in health has yet to provide a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms underlying this association. In recent analysis, we showed health behaviours, assessed longitudinally over the follow-up, to explain a major proportion of the association of socioeconomic status (SES) with mortality in the British Whitehall II study. However, whether health behaviours are equally important mediators of the SES-mortality association in different cultural settings remains unknown. In the present paper, we examine this issue in Whitehall II and another prospective European cohort, the French GAZEL study.
Methods and Findings
We included 9,771 participants from the Whitehall II study and 17,760 from the GAZEL study. Over the follow-up (mean 19.5 y in Whitehall II and 16.5 y in GAZEL), health behaviours (smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, and physical activity), were assessed longitudinally. Occupation (in the main analysis), education, and income (supplementary analysis) were the markers of SES. The socioeconomic gradient in smoking was greater (p<0.001) in Whitehall II (odds ratio [OR]  = 3.68, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.11–4.36) than in GAZEL (OR  = 1.33, 95% CI 1.18–1.49); this was also true for unhealthy diet (OR  = 7.42, 95% CI 5.19–10.60 in Whitehall II and OR  = 1.31, 95% CI 1.15–1.49 in GAZEL, p<0.001). Socioeconomic differences in mortality were similar in the two cohorts, a hazard ratio of 1.62 (95% CI 1.28–2.05) in Whitehall II and 1.94 in GAZEL (95% CI 1.58–2.39) for lowest versus highest occupational position. Health behaviours attenuated the association of SES with mortality by 75% (95% CI 44%–149%) in Whitehall II but only by 19% (95% CI 13%–29%) in GAZEL. Analysis using education and income yielded similar results.
Conclusions
Health behaviours were strong predictors of mortality in both cohorts but their association with SES was remarkably different. Thus, health behaviours are likely to be major contributors of socioeconomic differences in health only in contexts with a marked social characterisation of health behaviours.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The influence of the socioeconomic environment on the health of individuals and populations is well known, giving rise to the so-called social determinants of health. The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national, and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities—the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. In addition, health-damaging behaviors are often strongly socially patterned. For example, material constraints, lack of knowledge, and limited opportunities to follow health promoting messages often act as barriers that prevent those from lower socioeconomic groups to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Yet the extent to which health behaviors explain social inequalities in health remains unclear and can range from 12% to 72% according to some studies.
Why Was This Study Done?
In a recently published paper using data from the British Whitehall II cohort, the researchers showed that longitudinal assessment of health behaviors accounted for socioeconomic differences in mortality better than a single baseline assessment as used in most previous studies. (The Whitehall II study started in 1985 to examine the socioeconomic gradient in health among 10,308 London-based civil servants [6,895 men and 3,413 women] aged 35–55).
However, it is not clear whether health behaviors are equally important mediators of the socioeconomic-health association in different cultural settings. In this study, the researchers examine this issue by comparing their recent findings of the Whitehall II study with another European cohort, the French GAZEL study. (The GAZEL study started in 1989 among employees of the French national gas and electricity company totaling 20,625 employees [15,011 men and 5,614 women], aged 35–50.) The Whitehall II study and the GAZEL study have comparable designs in the way both assess socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and mortality and have a similar age range and follow-up period.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers included 9,771 participants from the Whitehall II study and 17,760 from the GAZEL study—mean follow up for Whitehall II was 19.5 years and for GAZEL was 16.5 years. The researchers used occupation as the main marker of socioeconomic status, and education and income as supplementary markers of socioeconomic status. Apart from a few exceptions, the researchers analyzed each cohort separately and used statistical techniques to calculate: the mortality rates per 1000 person-years for each socioeconomic group; the age- and sex-adjusted prevalence rates of smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity, at the first and the last follow-up of the study for each socioeconomic group; and the differences in health behaviors prevalence between lowest and highest occupational position. Then the researchers used a statistical model to deduce the contribution of all health behaviors.
The researchers found that the socioeconomic gradient in smoking, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity was greater in Whitehall II than in GAZEL. Socioeconomic differences in mortality were similar in the two cohorts, a hazard ratio of 1.62 in Whitehall II and 1.94 in GAZEL for lowest versus highest occupational position. Health behaviors weakened the association between socioeconomic status and mortality by 75% in Whitehall II but only by 19% in GAZEL. The supplementary analysis the researchers conducted using education and income as socioeconomic markers gave similar results.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that the social patterning of unhealthy behaviors differs between countries. Although in both cohorts socioeconomic status and health behaviors were strong predictors of mortality, major differences in the social patterning of unhealthy behaviors in the two cohorts meant that the causal chains leading from socioeconomic status to health behaviors to mortality were different. Therefore it may be that health behaviors are likely to only be major contributors of socioeconomic differences in health in contexts with a marked social characterization of those behaviors. In order to identify the common and unique determinants of social inequalities in health in different populations, there needs to be further comparative research on the relative importance of different pathways linking socioeconomic status to health.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000419.
WHO provides information on social determinants of health
University College London provides information on the Whitehall study
The GAZEL study is available in an online open access format
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000419
PMCID: PMC3043001  PMID: 21364974
17.  The mediating effect of social relationships on the association between socioeconomic status and subjective health – results from the Heinz Nixdorf Recall cohort study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:285.
Background
Socioeconomic status (SES) is an important determinant of population health. Explanatory approaches on how SES determines health have so far included numerous factors, amongst them psychosocial factors such as social relationships. However, it is unclear whether social relationships can help explain socioeconomic differences in general subjective health. Do different aspects of social relationships contribute differently to the explanation? Based on a cohort study of middle and older aged residents (45 to 75 years) from the Ruhr Area in Germany our study tries to clarify the matter.
Methods
For the analyses data from the population-based prospective Heinz Nixdorf Recall (HNR) Study is used. As indicators of SES education, equivalent household income and occupational status were employed. Social relations were assessed by including structural as well as functional aspects. Structural aspects were estimated by the Social Integration Index (SII) and functional aspects were measured by availability of emotional and instrumental support. Data on general subjective health status was available for both baseline examination (2000–2003) and a 5-year follow-up (2006–2008). The sample consists of 4,146 men and women. Four logistic regression models were calculated: in the first model we controlled for age and subjective health at baseline, while in models 2 and 3, either functional or structural aspects of social relationships were introduced separately. Model 4 then included all variables. As former studies indicated different health effects of SES and social relations in men and women, analyses were conducted with the overall sample as well as for each gender alone.
Results
Prospective associations of SES and subjective health were reduced after introducing social relationships into the regression models. Percentage reductions between 2% and 30% were observed in the overall sample when all aspects of social relations were included. The percentage reductions were strongest in the lowest SES group. Gender specific analyses revealed mediating effects of social relationships in women and men. The magnitude of mediating effects varied depending on the indicators of SES and social relations.
Conclusions
Social relationships substantially contribute to the explanation of SES differences in subjective health. Interventions for improving social relations which especially focus on socially deprived groups are likely to help reducing socioeconomic disparities in health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-285
PMCID: PMC3408349  PMID: 22510464
18.  Occupational epidemiology and work related inequalities in health: a gender perspective for two complementary approaches to work and health research 
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health  2007;61(Suppl 2):ii39-ii45.
Objectives
To provide a framework for epidemiological research on work and health that combines classic occupational epidemiology and the consideration of work in a structural perspective focused on gender inequalities in health.
Methods
Gaps and limitations in classic occupational epidemiology, when considered from a gender perspective, are described. Limitations in research on work related gender inequalities in health are identified. Finally, some recommendations for future research are proposed.
Results
Classic occupational epidemiology has paid less attention to women's problems than men's. Research into work related gender inequalities in health has rarely considered either social class or the impact of family demands on men's health. In addition, it has rarely taken into account the potential interactions between gender, social class, employment status and family roles and the differences in social determinants of health according to the health indicator analysed.
Conclusions
Occupational epidemiology should consider the role of sex and gender in examining exposures and associated health problems. Variables should be used that capture the specific work environments and health conditions of both sexes. The analysis of work and health from a gender perspective should take into account the complex interactions between gender, family roles, employment status and social class.
doi:10.1136/jech.2007.059774
PMCID: PMC2465767  PMID: 18000116
gender; occupational health; socioeconomic factors; family characteristics
19.  Gender-related power differences, beliefs and reactions towards people living with HIV/AIDS: an urban study in Nigeria 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:334.
Background
Although there are an increasing number of studies on HIV-related stigma in Nigeria, very little research has focused on how power differences based on gender perpetuate the stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and how these gender differences affect the care that PLWHA receive in health care institutions. We explore gender-related beliefs and reactions of society, including health care professionals (HCPs), with regard to PLWHA, using Connell's theoretical framework of gender and power (1987). With Connell's structural theory of gender and power (financial inequality, authority and structure of social norms), we can describe gender differences in stigmatization of PLWHA.
Method
We conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews, lasting 60 to 90 minutes, with 100 persons (40 members of the general public, 40 HCPs and 20 PLWHA) in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The Nvivo 7 computer package was used to analyze the data.
Results
There are similarities and differences between the general public and HCPs towards PLWHA in gender-related beliefs and reactions. For instance, although association with promiscuity and power differences were commonly acknowledged in the different groups, there are differences in how these reactions are shown; such as HCPs asking the female PLWHA to inform their partners to ensure payment of hospital bills. Women with HIV/AIDS in particular are therefore in a disadvantaged position with regard to the care they receive.
Conclusion
Despite the fact that men and women with HIV/AIDS suffer the same illness, clear disparities are apparent in the negative reaction women and men living with HIV/AIDS experience in society. We show that women's generally low status in society contributes to the extreme negative reactions to which female PLWHA are subject. The government should create policies aimed at reducing the power differences in family, society and health care systems, which would be important to decrease the gender-related differences in stigma experienced by PLWHA. Interventions should be directed at the prevailing societal norms through appropriate legislation and advocacy at grassroots level with the support of men to counter laws that put women in a disadvantaged position. Furthermore, development of a policy that encourages equality in access to health care for all patients with HIV/AIDS by applying the same conditions to both men and women in health care institutions is recommended. There is a need to protect women's rights through implementing support policies, including paying attention to gender in the training of HCPs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-334
PMCID: PMC2901374  PMID: 20540794
20.  The incorporation of gender perspective into Spanish health surveys 
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health  2007;61(Suppl 2):ii20-ii25.
Background
Most studies into social determinants of health conducted in Spain based on data from health surveys have focused on social class inequalities. This paper aims to review the progressive incorporation of gender perspective and sex differences into health surveys in Spain, and to suggest design, data collection and analytical proposals as well as to make policy proposals.
Methods
Changes introduced into health surveys in Spain since 1995 to incorporate gender perspective are examined, and proposals for the future are made, which would permit the analysis of differences in health between women and men as a result of biology or because of gender inequalities.
Results
The introduction of gender perspective in health surveys requires the incorporation of questions related to family setting and reproductive work, workplace and society in general to detect gender differences and inequalities (for example, domestic work, intimate partner violence, discrimination, contract type or working hours). Health indicators reflecting differential morbidity and taking into account the different lifecycle stages must also be incorporated. Analyses ought to be disaggregated by sex and interpretation of results must consider the complex theoretical frameworks explaining the differences in health between men and women based on sex differences and those related to gender.
Conclusions
Analysis of survey data ought to consider the impact of social, political and cultural constructs of each society. Any significant modification in procedures for collection of data relevant to the study of gender will require systematic coordination between institutions generating the data and researchers who are trained in and sensitive to the topic.
doi:10.1136/jech.2007.059956
PMCID: PMC2465768  PMID: 18000111
gender; social inequalities in health; health surveys; social class
21.  Dimensions of gender relations and reproductive health inequity perceived by female undergraduate students in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam: a qualitative exploration 
Introduction
Increasing evidence indicates that gender equity has a significant influence on women’s health; yet few culturally specific indicators of gender relations exist which are applicable to health. This study explores dimensions of gender relations perceived by female undergraduate students in southern Vietnamese culture, and qualitatively examines how this perceived gender inequity may influence females’ sexual or reproductive health.
Methods
Sixty-two female undergraduate students from two universities participated in eight focus group discussions to talk about their perspectives regarding national and local gender equity issues.
Results
Although overall gender gaps in the Mekong Delta were perceived to have decreased in comparison to previous times, several specific dimensions of gender relations were emergent in students’ discussions. Perceived dimensions of gender relations were comparable to theoretical structures of the Theory of Gender and Power, and to findings from several reports describing the actual inferiority of women. Allocation of housework and social paid work represented salient dimensions of labor. The most salient dimension of power related to women in positions of authority. Salient dimensions of cathexis related to son preference, women’s vulnerability to blame or criticism, and double standards or expectations. Findings also suggested that gender inequity potentially influenced women’s sexual and reproductive health as regards to health information seeking, gynecological care access, contraceptive use responsibility, and child bearing.
Conclusion
Further investigations of the associations between gender relations and different women’s sexual and reproductive health outcomes in this region are needed. It may be important to address gender relations as a distal determinant in health interventions in order to promote gender-based equity in sexual and reproductive health.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-63
PMCID: PMC3511059  PMID: 23095733
Gender relation; Gender equity; Women’s health; Reproductive health; Vietnam; Undergraduate student.
22.  From individual coping strategies to illness codification: the reflection of gender in social science research on Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) 
Introduction
Emerging fields such as environmental health have been challenged, in recent years, to answer the growing methodological calls for a finer integration of sex and gender in health-related research and policy-making.
Methods
Through a descriptive examination of 25 peer-reviewed social science papers published between 1996 and 2011, we explore, by examining methodological designs and theoretical standpoints, how the social sciences have integrated gender sensitivity in empirical work on Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). MCS is a “diagnosis” associated with sensitivities to chronic and low-dose chemical exposures, which remains contested in both the medical and institutional arenas, and is reported to disproportionately affect women.
Results
We highlighted important differences between papers that did integrate a gender lens and those that did not. These included characteristics of the authorship, purposes, theoretical frameworks and methodological designs of the studies. Reviewed papers that integrated gender tended to focus on the gender roles and identity of women suffering from MCS, emphasizing personal strategies of adaptation. More generally, terminological confusions in the use of sex and gender language and concepts, such as a conflation of women and gender, were observed. Although some men were included in most of the study samples reviewed, specific data relating to men was undereported in results and only one paper discussed issues specifically experienced by men suffering from MCS. Papers that overlooked gender dimensions generally addressed more systemic social issues such as the dynamics of expertise and the medical codification of MCS, from more consistently outlined theoretical frameworks. Results highlight the place for a critical, systematic and reflexive problematization of gender and for the development of methodological and theoretical tools on how to integrate gender in research designs when looking at both micro and macro social dimensions of environmental health conditions.
Conclusions
This paper contributes to a discussion on the methodological and policy implications of taking sex and gender into account appropriately in order to contribute to better equity in health, especially where the critical social contexts of definition and medico-legal recognition play a major role such as in the case of MCS.
doi:10.1186/s12939-014-0078-2
PMCID: PMC4172898  PMID: 25213354
Gender-based analysis; Environmentally-induced disabilities; Environmental health; Multiple chemical sensitivies (MCS); Social sciences; Research methodology
23.  Social relationships and healthful dietary behaviour: Evidence from over-50s in the EPIC cohort, UK☆ 
Social Science & Medicine (1982)  2014;100(100):167-175.
Social relationships are an important aspect of a person's social environment that can protect against a wide range of chronic conditions and facilitate recovery from disease. Social relationships have also been linked to dietary behaviour which may be an important pathway through which social circumstances exert their influence on health. Yet, questions remain about which structural aspects of social relationships most affect healthful dietary behaviours and whether different structural components interact to produce a combined effect. Using data from adults (≥50 years) in the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer-Norfolk study (1996–2002), we examined marital status, living arrangement and social isolation in relation to scores for variety of fruit and vegetable intake as a marker of diet quality associated with adverse health outcomes. Data were analysed with multivariable linear regression models for gender-specific and interaction associations. We found that being single or widowed was associated with a lower variety score, particularly vegetable variety, and associations were enhanced when combined with male gender, living alone or infrequent friend contact. Lower variety scores for lone-living were also observed, especially for men. Infrequent friend contact interacted with living arrangement to amplify negative associations of lone-living with variety, with statistically significant differences in contact frequency for vegetable variety. Lower levels of friend contact were associated with reduced variety of fruits and vegetables in a graded trend for both genders; the trend was more pronounced among men. Family contact appeared to have limited association with vegetable variety in men; among women, weekly contact was significantly and positively associated with vegetable variety compared to daily family contact. Results highlight the importance of considering living arrangement and/or frequency of social contact when assessing whether widowed, single or lone-living older adults are at risk of lower fruit and vegetable variety.
Highlights
•Social relationships affect health and can also influence dietary behaviour.•We examined joint effects of diverse structural components of relationships on diet.•We used data from over-50s in an established epidemiological cohort.•Men fared worse than women in reduced variety from poorer structural social ties.•Social isolation altered dietary effects of marital status and living arrangement.
doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.08.018
PMCID: PMC3969105  PMID: 24035440
Social relationships; Social ties; Gender; Interactions; Diet variety; Health behaviour; Chronic disease; UK
24.  Associations between Intimate Partner Violence and Termination of Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001581.
Lucy Chappell and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta analysis to investigate a possible association between intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Intimate partner violence (IPV) and termination of pregnancy (TOP) are global health concerns, but their interaction is undetermined. The aim of this study was to determine whether there is an association between IPV and TOP.
Methods and Findings
A systematic review based on a search of Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, and Ovid Maternity and Infant Care from each database's inception to 21 September 2013 for peer-reviewed articles of any design and language found 74 studies regarding women who had undergone TOP and had experienced at least one domain (physical, sexual, or emotional) of IPV. Prevalence of IPV and association between IPV and TOP were meta-analysed. Sample sizes ranged from eight to 33,385 participants. Worldwide, rates of IPV in the preceding year in women undergoing TOP ranged from 2.5% to 30%. Lifetime prevalence by meta-analysis was shown to be 24.9% (95% CI 19.9% to 30.6%); heterogeneity was high (I2>90%), and variation was not explained by study design, quality, or size, or country gross national income per capita. IPV, including history of rape, sexual assault, contraceptive sabotage, and coerced decision-making, was associated with TOP, and with repeat TOPs. By meta-analysis, partner not knowing about the TOP was shown to be significantly associated with IPV (pooled odds ratio 2.97, 95% CI 2.39 to 3.69). Women in violent relationships were more likely to have concealed the TOP from their partner than those who were not. Demographic factors including age, ethnicity, education, marital status, income, employment, and drug and alcohol use showed no strong or consistent mediating effect. Few long-term outcomes were studied. Women welcomed the opportunity to disclose IPV and be offered help. Limitations include study heterogeneity, potential underreporting of both IPV and TOP in primary data sources, and inherent difficulties in validation.
Conclusions
IPV is associated with TOP. Novel public health approaches are required to prevent IPV. TOP services provide an opportune health-based setting to design and test interventions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Intimate partner violence (sometimes referred to as domestic violence) is one of the commonest forms of violence against women and is a global health problem. The World Health Organization defines intimate partner violence as any act of physical, psychological, or sexual aggression or any controlling behavior (for example, restriction of access to assistance) perpetrated by the woman's current or past intimate partner. Although men also experience it, intimate partner violence is overwhelmingly experienced by women, particularly when repeated or severe. Studies indicate that the prevalence (the percentage of a population affected by a condition) of intimate partner violence varies widely within and between countries: the prevalence of intimate partner violence among women ranges from 15% in Japan to 71% in Ethiopia, and the lifetime prevalence of rape (forced sex) within intimate relationships ranges from 5.9% to 42% across the world, for example. Overall, a third of women experience intimate partner violence at some time during their lifetimes. The health consequences of such violence include physical injury, depression, suicidal behavior, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Why Was This Study Done?
Intimate partner violence can also lead to gynecological disorders (conditions affecting the female reproductive organs), unwanted pregnancy, premature labour and birth, and sexually transmitted infections. Because violence may begin or intensify during pregnancy, some countries recommend routine questioning about intimate partner violence during antenatal care. However, women seeking termination of pregnancy (induced abortion) are not routinely asked about intimate partner violence. Every year, many women worldwide terminate a pregnancy. Nearly half of these terminations are unsafe, and complications arising from unsafe abortions are responsible for more than 10% of maternal deaths (deaths from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications). It is important to know whether intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy are associated in order to develop effective strategies to deal with both these global health concerns. Here, the researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate the associations between intimate partner violence and termination or pregnancy. A systematic review identifies all the research on a given topic using predefined criteria; meta-analysis combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 74 studies that provided information about experiences of intimate partner violence among women who had had a termination of pregnancy. Data in these studies indicated that, worldwide, intimate partner violence rates among women undergoing termination ranged from 2.5% to 30% in the preceding year and from 14% to 40% over their lifetime. In the meta-analysis, the lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence was 24.9% among termination-seeking populations. The identified studies provided evidence that intimate partner violence was associated with termination and with repeat termination. In one study, for example, women presenting for a third termination were more than two and a half times more likely to have a history of physical or sexual violence than women presenting for their first termination. Moreover, according to the meta-analysis, women in violent relationships were three times as likely to conceal a termination from their partner as women in non-violent relationships. Finally, the studies indicated that women undergoing terminations of pregnancy welcomed the opportunity to disclose their experiences of intimate partner violence and to be offered help.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that intimate partner violence is associated with termination of pregnancy and that a woman's partner not knowing about the termination is a risk factor for intimate partner violence among women seeking termination. Overall, the researchers' findings support the concept that violence can lead to pregnancy and to subsequent termination of pregnancy, and that there may be a repetitive cycle of abuse and pregnancy. The accuracy of these findings is limited by heterogeneity (variability) among the included studies, by the likelihood of underreporting of both intimate partner violence and termination in the included studies, and by lack of validation of reports of violence through, for example, police reports. Nevertheless, health-care professionals should consider the possibility that women seeking termination of pregnancy may be experiencing intimate partner violence. In trying to prevent repeat terminations, health-care professionals should be aware that while focusing on preventing conception may reduce the chances of a woman becoming pregnant, she may still be vulnerable to abuse. Finally, given the clear associations between intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy, the researchers suggest that termination services represent an appropriate setting in which to test interventions designed to reduce intimate partner violence.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001581.
The World Health organization provides detailed information about intimate partner violence and about termination of pregnancy (some information available in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about intimate partner violence and about termination of pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
The World Bank has a webpage that discusses the role of the health sector in preventing gender-based violence and a webpage with links to other resources about gender-based violence
The Gender and Health Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council provides links to further resources about intimate partner violence (research briefs/policy briefs/fact sheets/research reports)
DIVERHSE (Domestic & Interpersonal Violence: Effecting Responses in the Health Sector in Europe) is a European forum for health professionals, nongovernmental organizations, policy-makers, and academics to share their expertise and good practice in developing and evaluating interventions to address violence against women and children in a variety of health-care settings
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Gender Violence and Health Centre also has a number of research resources
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides personal stories of intimate partner violence during pregnancy
The March of Dimes provides information on identifying intimate partner violence during pregnancy and making a safety plan
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001581
PMCID: PMC3883805  PMID: 24409101
25.  Can Tobacco Control Be Transformative? Reducing Gender Inequity and Tobacco Use among Vulnerable Populations  
Tobacco use and exposure is unequally distributed across populations and countries and among women and men. These trends and patterns reflect and cause gender and economic inequities along with negative health impacts. Despite a commitment to gender analysis in the preamble to Framework Convention on Tobacco Control there is much yet to be done to fully understand how gender operates in tobacco control. Policies, program and research in tobacco control need to not only integrate gender, but rather operationalize gender with the goal of transforming gender and social inequities in the course of tobacco control initiatives. Gender transformative tobacco control goes beyond gender sensitive efforts and challenges policy and program developers to apply gender theory in designing their initiatives, with the goal of changing negative gender and social norms and improving social, economic, health and social indicators along with tobacco reduction. This paper outlines what is needed to progress tobacco control in enhancing the status of gendered and vulnerable groups, with a view to reducing gender and social inequities due to tobacco use and exposure.
doi:10.3390/ijerph110100792
PMCID: PMC3924474  PMID: 24402065
gender; gender-transformative; tobacco use; tobacco exposure; women; men

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