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“Men and masculinity”: An emerging theme in gender and health research

The journal Global Health Action has published an editorial titled Gender and health – aspects of importance for understanding health and illness in the world, that gives context to a special issue published over the past year on gender and health, a topic the growing journal’s editorial team considers vital in global health research.

The special issue, comprised of 13 original articles plus the editorial, is global in scope, representing research that examines issues as diverse as Thai men’s experiences of alcohol and addiction and treatment, and risk factors for unwanted teen pregnancies among South African women.

In early 2014, the journal announced a call for papers around the topic “gender and health”, specifically requesting works on sexual and reproductive health and rights; gender-based violence; aging and gender; health systems; climate change; and globalization.

“We weren’t surprised by the number of submissions the journal received pertaining to reproductive rights,” said Ann Ohman, a professor at Umeå Centre for Gender Studies at Sweden’s Umeå University; and first author of the editorial. “In general, when most people think of ‘gender and health’ – reproductive rights and related issues are what come first to mind.”

“And while reproductive health is absolutely a theme of central importance – it’s not the only pressing subject related to gender and health that global health researchers should be exploring today.”

Most surprising and promising, she said, were the number of submissions pertaining to men and masculinity. Five of the 13 articles published related in various ways to the topic.

“Men and women’s health are inextricably tied; it is impossible, really, to view them separately,” said Ohman, pointing to power relations – and how they can be affected by issues like alcoholism in men and machismo, both of which are explored in the cluster.

This is illustrated in one of the published papers that reported on a cross-sectional study on gender equality and sexual behavior in adolescents in Bolivia and Ecuador; the study results suggest “that gender equality attitudes have a positive impact on adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and well-being.”

“What these articles collectively point to is an emergence of new theoretical concepts around what we are terming “health promoting masculinities,” said Ohman, “Which can lead to better health in women and children.”

Yet another paper in the cluster that Ohman considers very important looked at rape of women in India, and the role social workers, researchers and public health professionals can play in improving gender parity in the country.

“Linking global health research to policy is vital for change,” said Ohman.


Gender and health – aspects of importance for understanding health and illness in the world, Ann Öhman et al., Global Health Action, DOI: 10.3402/gha.v8.26908, published 22 January 2015.

Source: Co-Action Publishing