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Women’s Xchange sex and gender workshop spreads knowledge for change in health research

March 20, 2017

By Lindsay Jolivet

Scientists gathered at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) on March 6 to address a critical issue — ensuring research considers the impact of sex and gender on health.

The workshop, “Integrating Sex and Gender in Health Research,” drew close to 120 attendees who came to learn practical methods for integrating sex and gender into their research studies. Women’s Xchange hosted the workshop with the goal of encouraging sex and gender integration as standard practice in health research.

“Integrating sex and gender results in better research evidence, leading to better healthcare and health outcomes — not just for women, but for everyone,” said Dr. Paula Rochon, vice-president of research at WCH, in her opening remarks.

Sessions included case study findings, expert advice and specific methodologies to integrate sex and gender into research. For example, speakers shared data analysis approaches for identifying different outcomes in men and women in clinical trials and other types of studies. Others shared tools for asking research participants their sex and gender in ways that include LGBTQ2S identities.

Experts from the University of Toronto, McGill University, Harvard University and other institutions presented case studies of sex and gender differences in many areas, including pain research, osteoarthritis, sexual violence and youth homelessness.

Research has shown that scientists still struggle to incorporate and report on sex and gender in their studies. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research instituted a requirement that researchers integrate sex and gender into their research designs when appropriate, yet found in a follow-up study that many still fail to do so. Most rodent studies still use only male mice and rats, creating a gap in findings that are later translated to humans.

Meanwhile, evidence is mounting for why sex and gender matter. For example, Dr. Rochon presented her finding that a third of residents in long-term care have to split their pills to take the dose the doctor prescribed. Studies often do not test drugs in the populations that tend to take them, and as a result drugs are not always manufactured in the doses that people need. Most of the patients who have to split their pills are women.

Women’s Xchange is working to improve capacity in this area through workshops and a sex and gender support service that works with scientists to improve their studies from research proposal through execution, analysis, and dissemination.

The Women’s Xchange team will share videos from the workshop on their YouTube channel at a later date.

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