Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence

  Careful Measures: An Exploration of the Sex and Gender Dimensions of a Deprivation Index


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The research and publication of this study were funded by the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE). The PWHCE is financially supported by the Women's Health Contribution Program, Bureau of Women's Health and Gender Analysis, Health Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the PWHCE or the official policy of Health Canada.

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M. J. Haworth-Brockman, H. Isfeld, A. Pederson, B. Clow, A. Liwander, and B. A. Kinniburgh, Editors

While there is considerable interest in understanding the social determinants of health and in measuring their effects, sex and gender have received little consideration in existing concepts, models and measures of deprivation. This deficit in sex- and gender-based analysis persists, despite the wealth of evidence demonstrating that women are more likely than men to experience multiple forms of disadvantage and greater health inequity. If the goal of population health planning is to reduce health disparities by reducing inequities that create the disparity, then it is essential to understand where and how inequities originate.

Our investigation began with a review of the concepts underlying deprivation indices, including a look at three indices developed in Canada. We then explored the sex- and gender-based dimensions of the indicators used for one deprivation index (namely income, education, employment, living alone, separated/divorced/widowed and lone parent families), by scanning current research and grey literature. Additionally, we conducted a statistical analysis of a deprivation index, by replicating the components for women and men separately, using Statistics Canada's Census data for Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax.

Our results suggest that a deprivation index may not apply to men and women equally. The findings point to the need for thorough exploration of sex and gender differences associated with components of multivariate indices to ensure that they reflect the experience of men and women.

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