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Catharine A. MacKinnon

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Catharine A. MacKinnon

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Catharine A. MacKinnon

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Edited by Jasmine Gideon

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Ramya Kumar, Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Peggy McDonough

In recent years a range of leading international health and development agencies have reasserted their commitment to addressing women’s health in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This renewed attention to maternal and child health (MCH) and family planning departs from the broader 1990s emphasis on reproductive health. It draws, instead, from prior MCH approaches entrenched in colonial exigencies and neocolonial population control strategies. This chapter analyses and contextualizes the trajectory of the ‘international women’s health agenda’ over the past quarter century. The authors begin by examining the key historical antecedents that gave rise to contemporary understandings of (international) women’s health. They then explore the social, political, and economic forces and players that have shaped the international women’s health agenda, from the 1994 Cairo/1995 Beijing conferences and the UN Millennium Project, to the Sustainable Development Goals. They demonstrate how a constellation of actors, including powerful states and certain ‘partner’ LMIC governments, international financial institutions, prominent private philanthropies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and mainstream women’s health advocacy groups have shaped dominant definitions of, and responses to, women’s health ‘problems’ in the Global South. The authors suggest that narrowly conceiving women’s health as MCH/family planning aligns with neoliberal development discourses and transnational interests that in various forms have long influenced international and global health policy. They conclude by supporting an alternative approach to building a post-2015 women’s health agenda that moves beyond its current institutionalized arrangements to forge coalitions with radical women’s advocacy groups and grass-roots social justice movements.

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James A. Smith, Noel Richardson and Steve Robertson

The state of men’s health, particularly the high levels of premature mortality amongst men, remains a cause for concern across much of the globe; though the reasons for this premature mortality may vary significantly in different countries and across different continents. Aggregate rates for mortality or longevity have to be treated with some caution as they can hide significant health inequalities across geographical areas and regions or across different groups of men in relation to social class, ethnicity, sexuality and other demographic factors. There is much then that the public health community could do to address these inequalities. This chapter begins by mapping the current issues in relation to men’s health, inequalities and public health and describes where discourses on ‘masculinities’ can fit into these debates. The authors then discuss the implications of this for men in the Global South, in particular approaches taking a gender relations or gender transformative position in dealing with issues such as reproductive health, sexual health and men’s violence. The chapter then moves on to consider the nuances of framing men’s health as an intersectoral endeavour. The authors unpack how a broader focus on men’s health can be embedded into public policy spaces both within and outside of the health sector through the adoption of Health in All Policies (HiAP) and gender mainstreaming approaches. In doing so, discourses of masculinities can be used to refocus men’s health discussions on issues relating to equity (where issues of social justice and fairness come into play) within a public policy space. The development of sex-specific health policies is a controversial part of current debates relating to men and public health responses. Case studies featuring the experiences of two countries that have developed and implemented men’s health policies, Ireland and Australia, are therefore explored in order to illustrate what lessons have been learnt in transitioning from policy development to implementation.

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Sarah N. Ssali, Sally Theobald, Justine Namakula and Sophie Witter

The post-conflict trajectory presents an opportunity to rebuild health systems to better meet the needs of all citizens. However, there is limited literature or analysis on gender equity in health system reconstruction. Northern Uganda experienced multiple conflicts which ended with tentative peace and post-conflict reconstruction starting in 2007. Using a health systems approach and analysis of data from multiple methods (household survey, life histories and key informant interviews) and participants (women and men household heads, community members, health workers and key informants) this chapter analyses the extent to which gender equity has been considered and realized in the post-conflict reconstruction of the health sector in Gulu, Northern Uganda. The analysis across multiple data sets reveals four key findings. Firstly, health systems development has focused largely on health facility reconstruction with insufficient mechanisms to address ways in which gender, age and poverty interplay to limit access to health systems. Secondly, in terms of focus area, maternal and child health emerged as a key priority amongst most providers. This is limiting as the special health care needs of Northern Uganda as a post-conflict setting go beyond maternal and child health (MCH) services, and include psycho-social trauma, non-communicable illnesses, human resources, malnutrition, inadequate equipment and drug stock-outs. Thirdly, gender, generation and poverty shape household health events and care-seeking pathways. Female household heads who were older and widowed were most likely to be poor, and face challenges in raising the resources for accessing health care; care-seeking was often delayed. Fourthly, gender shapes health care workers’ expectations, experiences and strategies to deal with conflict. Gender segregation by roles, understaffing in remote areas and lack of responsiveness to life course events for workers with family responsibilities play a role in limiting access to training and promotion for women in particular, and especially those in remote areas. The commitment of largely female mid-level cadres in remaining in posts during the conflict in Northern Uganda has also been under-recognized and not appropriately celebrated. Drawing on this analysis the authors argue for a gender-aware post-conflict health care system, which considers health challenges facing different community members and health staff from a gender perspective. A gender-sensitive health care system needs to respond to women’s health care needs across their life cycle (as opposed to focusing only on the reproductive years), as well as men’s, and go beyond the provision of facilities to include a holistic analysis of livelihood challenges, which restrict women’s (and some men’s) ability to effectively access health care. This also requires action on the gender dimensions of health services provision, including human resources for health and budgeting. In conclusion, from a gender equity perspective there have been lost opportunities in the post-conflict reconstruction of the health sector. Health systems continue to evolve and future priorities need to focus on supporting vulnerable communities’ ability to access a range of vital health services, and ensuring women and men health workers’ gendered needs are met.

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Rachel Tolhurst, Esther Richards, Eleanor MacPherson, Dorcas M. Kamuya, Flavia Zalwango and Sally Theobald

This chapter explores the conceptualization and empirical evidence for gendered social processes for the production of health and illness within intimate relationships and households, drawing on international literature, additional grey literature from the Global South and four case studies from the authors’ own research. In particular, the chapter considers the capacity (by both women and men in different contexts) to exercise strategic agency in making decisions with regard to health and well-being both in their own lives and in those of their children. The authors explore how these capacities are conceptualized in both the development and health literature and the findings of empirical research in this area, particularly in three areas that have received particular attention in health: maternal, sexual and reproductive and child health. They then present and discuss four case studies from their own research in sub-Saharan Africa which illustrate the dynamics of the gendered production of health in intimate partnerships and households at different stages of the life cycle, including gendered bargaining processes (and their material and ideological bases), in order to explore these complex processes and outcomes in more depth. The case studies also examine the ways in which gender interacts with other axes of inequality to shape health experiences and outcomes, including for example age, livelihood strategies, socio-economic status, geographical location (for example, urban or rural), marital status and household structure. Finally, the authors discuss whether and how capacities for exercising strategic agency have been considered in health policies, programming and interventions within different contexts, and identify key areas for action and further research.

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Jeannie Samuel

This chapter explores the complexities of social inclusion and exclusion in health care. It presents a study of a group of indigenous women in Peru who act as ‘citizen monitors’ using a human rights-based approach to health. The monitors document and confront problems that indigenous health users face with discrimination, cultural insensitivity, poor treatment and illegal charges for services in public health care facilities. The study findings suggest that measures taken by the citizen monitors can help to address these problems. However, systemic deficiencies, including underfunding, poor management and neglect, are characteristic of the health system’s weakest segment which serves the monitors’ communities. These systemic issues underlie many of the problems identified by the monitors.