The gender and EU health policy roundtable organised by the EMHF with the Centre of Health and Ethics in Society (CHES) and the European Institute for Women’s Health (EIWH) took place on 28 October 2004 at the Madariaga European Foundation. Ludovic Lacaine reports.
The first session was chaired by Piroska Östlin
(Senior Lecturer, Karolinska Institute) and Jerome Reinstein
(Co-Facilitator, Medicines labelling Group). Both chairs emphasized the need to build bridges between ongoing initiatives in the field of gender and health.
After Raymond Georis (Managing Director, Madariaga European Foundation) had warmly welcomed the participants and the panellists, the first speaker, Barbara Helfferich (Cabinet of Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Dimas), introduced the EU’s gender mainstreaming policy framework. She stressed gender mainstreaming was based on two pillars, which are the integration of gender concerns into all policies and the introduction of specific initiatives to combat anti-discrimination. Ms Helfferich also recalled the importance in the past of the Open Method of Coordination in employment policies and its possible appliance in the area of health care.
The second speaker, Ineke Klinge (Assistant Professor, Gender studies Health Sciences, Maastricht University), presented an overview of the issues in relation to gender and women’s health. She emphasized that, although a definition of mainstreaming already exists, current practice indicates that a gendered approach is still lacking.
Alan White (Professor of Men’s Health, Leeds Metropolitan University) provided a thorough overview of the issues in relation to gender and men’s health. In his presentation he proposed a definition for a "men’s health issue" and stressed that research has demonstrated that men are at greater risk of death from all causes that can affect men and women equally, that men are more vulnerable at an earlier age, and that social class has a major impact.
The second session of the event was chaired by Karen Ritchie (Director, INSERM) and Ian Banks (President, European Men’s Health Forum).
Peggy Maguire (Director, European Institute for Women’s Health) presented an overview of the gender equity in EU health programmes and future health strategy. While encouraging gender mainstreaming of the health information in the EU is a positive step forward, stronger action needs to be taken and future programmes –not only health-related programmes - should contain specific activities on gender and health.
Johannes Klumpers and Gwennael Joliffe-Botrel (European Commission, DG Research) jointly outlined the activities of DG Research in relation to promoting gender equality in European scientific research. Through its different action plans and programmes on gender, DG Research is committed to improving the participation of women scientists in the Framework Programme activities and to ensuring that the gender dimension is properly addressed in EU-funded research content.
Professor Moira O’Brien (President and Chairman, Irish Osteoporosis Society IOS) presented a powerful case for a gender approach to osteoporosis and its importance from a policy perspective. Osteoporosis is a silent disease, and it the most common bone disease worldwide. Ms O’Brien stressed that, contrary to common belief, it is not an old woman’s disease: it affects both men and women of all age groups. Its first sign is often a fracture, and it occurs in 1 out of 3 post-menopausal women, as well as in 1 out of 8 men.
Tamsin Rose (Secretary General, European Public Health Alliance) first focused on the fact that a recent collaborative NGO project proposal on gender and health was rejected by the European Commission on the basis of a minor technical detail. Lack of funding is a great hindrance to NGOs, she underlined.
After an audience debate largely focused on the impact of social environment on health, on diversification of sources of funding and on the WHO Gender Mainstreaming Programme, Peggy Maguire and Erick Savoye (Director, European Men’s Health Forum) closed the Roundtable stating the importance of the meeting in terms of what was learnt.
The draft call for action – as disseminated prior to the meeting - will be adapted taking into account the panel’s and audiences’ suggestions, and be sent to all participants for comments, in order to prepare a final document which is to be sent to policy makers.