Report on the Seminar on

"Social and Economic Patterning of Health among Women"

Seminar held in Tunis, January 20-22, 2000

Sara ARBER (University of Surrey, UK)
Myriam KHLAT (INED, France)

Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography (CICRED)
Office National de la Famille et de la Population(ONFP)
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Attending this seminar in Tunis were twenty-eight representatives from population research Centres selected following responses to the questionnaire sent by CICRED to all its member Centres. The questions dealt with current projects concerning the study of relations between socioeconomic factors and women's health (see the presentation of the subject above). CICRED carried out a selection on the basis of the quality and scientific interest of the papers and with the aim of ensuring regional representation.

The first session presented a panorama of women?s health in the world, with a special focus on the situation in Arab countries and on the conceptual frameworks underlying the study of women health and their determining factors.

The other sessions dealt with the following subjects:

? the impact of gender roles on women?s compared to men?s health and how these vary in different socioeconomic circumstances, with contributions from Centres in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland, Canada and Egypt;

? the issue of gender relations and violence against women, with contributions from Centres in the United Kingdom, France and Jamaica;

? reproductive health with contributions from Argentina and Sudan;

? financial and socioeconomic conditions, with contributions from Centres in the United Kingdom, India and Turkey;

? the situation in societies in transition, with contributions from Poland and Bolivia;

? case studies with contributions from India and Nepal.

The last session focused on the question of social and health policies in relation to women?s health, with contributions from Japan, the United States and Norway.

During most of the sessions simultaneous interpreting in French and English was provided. The seminar also drew a Tunisian audience of approximately 15 people (doctors, social workers, health planners).

Presentation of the subject

The social and economic patterning of women?s health has been a neglected research topic both in developed and developing countries. More attention has been devoted to inequalities in mortality than morbidity, and the primary research focus has been on men, rather than women. This seminar aims to advance knowledge about inequalities in women?s health, by focusing on both current substantive research and on research which addresses methodological and conceptual issues.

The conceptual framework underlying research on class inequalities in health in developed countries has tended to differ according to gender. Occupation-based social position has been considered as the prominent factor influencing the health of men, whereas for women, a role framework, relating to women?s marital and parental role, as well as their participation in paid employment, has been dominant. It is important to integrate these two approaches, and consider whether women?s multiple roles have a positive or negative impact on their health, and how this varies according to women?s class position and their financial and material resources.

An understanding of inequalities in women?s health needs to take into account gender roles and relationships and the ways in which women?s lives differ from men?s lives. In some developing countries, women perform a major role in production and are engaged in agriculture, while in others, conventional gender roles prevent women participating in paid work. In all societies, women play the major role in childcare and care of older frail and dependent people. It is important to understand how these roles impact on women?s health in different cultural contexts.

The seminar will address the following:

  1. Alternative ways of defining and measuring:
  2. The impact of gender roles on women?s compared to men?s health and how these vary in different socio-economic circumstances and between societies.
  3. The implications of taking a life course or biographical perspective, which analyses how women?s marital, parental and economic roles impact on their health later in life.
  4. The value of cohort studies for analysing the relative importance of selectivity into particular socio-economic conditions due to prior health status (health selection), or to health risks attached to specific social roles and economic circumstances (causation).
  5. Policy implications of findings on social and economic patterning of women?s health.

Proceedings of the seminar

Editor on behalf of CICRED: ?ric VILQUIN

Of the eighteen papers, twelve have already been published together as a special issue of the periodical Social Science and Medicine (Volume 54, Number 5, March 2002), and each of the papers is in its original language (3 in French, 15 in English).

These documents are available in PDF format (*.pdf). You can read them by using "Adobe Acrobat Reader". If you have not this one, click here to download it freely.

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