WGST 303: Issues in Women's Health Report a Broken Link

Women’s Studies 303 allows students to examine and apply a gender-based analysis to specific and global health issues. It also helps them to better understand issues such as gender and the politics of health care; women’s reproductive health and health care; special issues in women’s health, including cancer, violence, and aging; and women’s health and the global environment. The course concentrates on health issues that are unique to women’s experiences, on women’s status as consumers of health care, and on the medicalization of women’s health issues and concerns. The course stresses the potential for women’s agency and autonomy with respect to improving their health and environments.

Supplementary Readings


Unit 1


Gender, Health, and the Politics of Health Care
Section 1.1 Gender and the Politics of Women’s Health: Reform and Revolution
Discusses globalization and health care reform in Canada and its impact on women’s health.
This paper discusses events that were the subject of an inquest into the deaths of 12 infants who died while undergoing or shortly after having undergone cardiac surgery at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba during 1994. It provides a good example of the relationship between power, gender, and legitimacy.
Discusses the negative findings on saline breast implants and how the politics of the business and corporate communities affect Health Canada’s decisions, while ignoring the health of women.
The authors discuss the connections between power, knowledge, language, and authority, and the consequences these have on research, policy, and practice.
Highlights the contributions being made by geographers in the area of women’s health research in Canada.
Section 1.2 The Gender of Care Providers: Doctors, Nurses, and Community Care
The authors examine factors that have contributed to a nursing shortage in Canada.
Examines issues related to women and gender equality in medical fields in Canada, as of December 15, 1997. Cohen presents a number of statistics related to women and the medical field and provides information on the numbers of women physicians in Canada as well as their marginalization in the field.
Joan Evans provides a historical and feminist perspective of the history of male nurses in Canada.
On November 28, 2002, Justice Roy Romanow, head of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, recommended sweeping changes to ensure the long-term sustainability of Canada´s health care system. Chapter 4 of the final report provides information on past, current, and future trends for health care workers, with an emphasis on the plight of nurses. The Health Canada home page is found at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca.
Barbara Sibbald discusses women’s role in medicine and the medical politics of health care in Canada.

Unit 2


Women’s Reproductive Health and Health Care
Section 2.1 Menstruation and Menopause
Alice Dan provides an overview of the work done by the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, highlighting the Society’s accomplishments in counteracting the political and social forces that affect women’s health.
The article discusses the medicalization of menopause in the United States where menopause is viewed primarily as an estrogen deficiency condition.
Penni Mitchell looks at the lack of diligence in understanding, studying, and dealing with menopause in Canada. This article provides insight into how the medicalization of menopause by male doctors and scientists has resulted in substandard care for women.
The authors describe how a patriarchal society has portrayed menstruation in a negative light and describe the consequences of this negativity for women and girls.
Nancy Worcester discusses the controversies concerning hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the medicalization of women’s health.
Section 2.2 Sexual Health and Controlling Fertility
The authors discuss the drawbacks associated with conceptualizing women’s sexuality based on a medical model rather than on the roles that values, culture, and politics play in the conception of sexuality.
The authors review the theory and literature that assesses gender differences in sex drive.
The authors assess the effects of pharmacological options in diagnosing and treating female sexual dysfunction.
This article focuses on a feminist, anti-medicalization education campaign to resist the promotion of female sexual dysfunction.
The authors discuss “female Viagra” and the new diagnosis of female sexual dysfunction.
Section 2.3 Abortion
Laura Eggerston discusses the difficulties obtaining abortion services in Canada, even though the country passed a law decriminalizing abortion in 1988.
The author looks at flaws in the US Supreme Court’s position concerning a pregnant teen’s need to acquire parental consent when seeking an abortion.
The authors explore reasons for women’s preference for a medical rather than a surgical abortion.
Section 2.4 Pregnancy and Childbirth
Heather Cahill provides a historical analysis of how medicine has successfully appropriated and medicalized pregnancy and childbirth.
The authors examine the key issues arising from the displacements of ‘reproduction’ in women’s lives from a postmodern, feminist perspective.
This article presents information on the practice of nurse-midwifery in the US.
Tracy Reibel discusses the similarities and differences between the Australian, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom systems of maternity service delivery, with an emphasis on the status of midwives as primary care providers.

Unit 3


Special Problems in Women’s Health
Section 3.1 Health and Violence Against Women
The article presents an overview of the role health services play in the prevention of intimate partner violence.
Joyce Green commemorates the massacre that occurred in Montreal on December 6, 1989, contending that misogyny kills, and that it is both endemic and epidemic to Canadian society.
The author looks at potential causes and contributing factors in intimate partner violence against women, including poverty, conflicts about finances, jealousy, gender role transgressions, and alcohol consumption.
The article discusses the issue of violence against women in North America. It suggests that 50 percent of women experience some type of violence in their lifetime, including child abuse, physical violence, rape, and/or domestic abuse.
Therese Zink and her colleagues argue that older women who are victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) often remain silent because healthcare providers think of IPV as a problem that affects only younger women.
Section 3.2 Women and Cancer
The authors examine diagnostic tests that allow genetic testing for several types of cancer. They also review the findings obtained during the past decade on the impact of genetic counseling and testing with respect to feelings of distress and guilt.
The author discusses prophylactic bilateral mastectomy as a preventative option for women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer.
The authors discuss the prevalence of ovarian cancer in Canada. They provide information on how ovarian tumors develop, clinical management techniques, prevention methods, and where to find further information.
The authors look at whether or not income-related differentials in incidents of cervical cancer mortality in Canada diminished between 1971 and 1996.
Section 3.3 Women, Health Care, and Aging
Beth Han and her colleagues examine whether or not change in self-rated health is a stronger predictor of mortality than baseline self-rated health with respect to disabled older women.
Miya Narushima focuses on the social activism of older Canadian women and its implications for later-life learning.
The author discusses issues that aging women often face, particularly issues related to ageism and body image.
The authors critique criteria for the diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa (AN), which excludes aging women.

Unit 4


Women’s Health and the Future
Terri Dame’s discussion focuses on a project initiated by the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society on Vancouver Island.
Mary Johnston, a rural physician, discusses the difficulties associated with a rural general practice.
The authors contend that environmental factors may play an important role in the etiology of female breast cancer.
The authors examine the effects that residential environments have on women’s health, and how men and women experience neighborhood characteristics differently.