The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted a resolution calling on member states to include gender differences in health policy.
Not to be confused with the EU, the Council of Europe was founded in 1949 to develop common and democratic principles across Europe based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other texts on the protection of individuals. There are 47 member countries. Its decisions are not binding and member states have no legal obligation to implement them But the adoption of this resolution is a significant political development nonetheless - positioning gender-sensitive health provision as a human rights issue.
The Council's resolution recommends that, 'in the context of protection of human rights', the governments of member states, 'make gender one of the priority areas of action in health through policies and strategies which address the specific health needs of men and women and that incorporate gender mainstreaming.'
Member states are asked to promote gender equality across health care, health promotion and disease prevention in an equitable manner and to consider issues related to the improvement of access and quality of health services as these relate to the specific and differing needs and situations of men and women.
Gender awareness and monitoring should be raised in the health sector while data should be gender-sensitive to allow 'evidence-based interventions through systematic collection of appropriate sex-disaggregated data, promotion of relevant research studies and gender analysis'.
In an appendix to the main resolution, the Council set out a series of specific measures. They urge member states to:
- Place responsibility for driving and implementing gender sensitive health policies at higher national, regional and local levels and ensure gender balanced representations in decision-making positions and establish posts for gender trained health experts;
- Produce regular gender based health reports including systematic scientifically based gender analysis in order to increase knowledge of the health of populations and to introduce gender awareness in the health sector:
- ensure that in health services and in the most relevant health surveys and programmes all routine data recording and collection systems are sex-disaggregated according to the health priorities of the country (e.g. taking into account patterns of mortality and morbidity);
- promote gender sensitive information systems and performance indicators for accountability purposes in the health system;
- include sex disaggregated information related to other social determinants that interact with gender: i.e. income, poverty levels, labour force participation, educations, housing;
- promote the use of gender sensitive indicators (e.g. World Health Organisation) in the process of data collection for national health reports;
- Promote the inclusion of gender aspects of health in the training and continuing education of all health and related social professionals at both undergraduate (e.g. medical and nurse training) and continuing education levels (in-service training) for all health workers including policy makers;
- Promote the education of health and social professionals on specific situations:
- on the consequences of domestic and other forms of violence for health;
- on the needs that affect the health of vulnerable groups;
- Promote scientific-based programmes and prioritise developing gender sensitive research programmes which will have an impact at the national level. The aim is to implement evidence-based public policies, anticipate challenges facing society, and develop adequate health promotion programmes;
- Initiate and promote the evaluation and monitoring from a gender perspective of the policies, programmes and actions undertaken in their country to address inequalities in health;
- Promote international networking between governmental and non-governmental organisations active in the domain of gender mainstreaming in health policy;
- Support an active targeted dissemination of this recommendation, accompanied where appropriate, by a translation into local languages.
Click here to view the full resolution.