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Global women’s health issues: sex and gender matter

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Empowering women improves both productivity and health outcomes

Although the terms “sex” and “gender” are commonly used as synonyms, they refer to two distinct concepts. Sex refers to the biological differences between men and women, whereas gender refers to socially defined roles, behaviours and expectations. Being clear about the distinction between the two terms is important, as the contribution to women’s health of sex and gender are likely to be different, and therefore also our solutions for reducing disparities. Sex differences are increasingly recognised as being important for conditions such as cardiovascular disease,1 for example, and while physiological differences in coronary vasculature can contribute to different presentations and manifestations of disease, gender influences health behaviours, risks, and access to health services.2 We argue that taking gender into account, as well as sex, is critical to improving health outcomes.

Gender inequality keeps women poor, makes them more vulnerable to violence as well as to illness, and limits their access to education, health care, and social justice.2 Globally, women and girls are more susceptible to poverty, violence and disability.3 Regardless of their country of residence, Indigenous women across the world…

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