A legal requirement on providers of public-services to plan for gender has been introduced in the UK. Under the Equality Act 2006, anyone providing a public service including the NHS has a 'gender duty' to produce a scheme showing how gender equality will be part of the outcome of their services. They must also conduct gender impact assessments of their policies and services.
The Men's Health Forum England believes that the duty, which came in in April, could transform the way in which the health needs of men and boys and women are met. To this end, the Forum has set up a network of health organisations to share information and work for the effective implementation of the gender equality duty.
Dr Ian Banks, President of both the Men's Health Forum and the EMHF, said: 'What this new duty does is to encourage a cultural shift in the delivery of services so that organisations develop greater gender-sensitivity in key public health issues, such as cancer, mental health, obesity and long-term medical conditions.
'As a group, men have been traditionally overlooked in public policy areas such as in health. Unfortunately it is still commonplace for managers and practitioners to ignore gender altogether, to assume that "gender" is solely about women, or to believe that men's and women's needs can be met by very limited and specific initiatives.
'What is now required is for all public sector organisations to understand the impact of their work on men and women as distinct groups, and to realise that men and women have different needs, experiences, concerns and priorities when developing health policies and services. Voluntary sector health organisations need to know about the gender duty and this new network will help to achieve that.'
Erick Savoye, director of the EMHF hopes this could be the first of a series of similar duties across the EU.