What role does gender-transformative health promotion play in Canada?


Gender-transformative health promotion is a concept that has been gaining some traction among those working on Canadian health issues. What role can gender transformative approaches play in improving the health and well-being of Canadians as we look towards the future?

As our society progresses, various norms and stigmas are being challenged. A new generation of youth continues to bring forth new visions for their futures and the future of Canada. Approaches to health and its determinants need to adapt and evolve to keep pace with these changes so as not to fall behind. This means having an open mind about how we assess risk factors - many of which were articulated decades ago but may no longer apply today - and recognizing that there are multiple ways of defining gender identity. Our society is also more diverse than ever before, which means that the experiences of some groups are excluded from traditional approaches to health promotion. This can be seen in many areas including sexual and reproductive health, mental health issues, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment as well as community development initiatives.

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Gender-transformative approaches are needed at all levels of Canadian society - not just among those working on youth or education issues. The recent increase in attention paid to transgender rights within the healthcare system has brought this issue forward for discussion but it is equally important to consider other populations whose needs may be left out of mainstream models of service delivery including women with disabilities, queer or gender-fluid individuals who face barriers related to social stigma or inaccessible spaces (suchas washrooms), and young mothers.

At the community level, we often work with local groups to assess their needs and where we can be most helpful. This has involved developing creative programs that bring together diverse groups of participants including mothers and health care providers, and these findings have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Health Promotion Practice: "Intersectional perspectives on building social support networks for new immigrant women'' (2014). Community based research is a key component to our work at the Stigma; Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre as it allows us to connect with people who are at risk of being marginalized by traditional approaches to health promotion. Particular attention is paid not only to those who are vulnerable but to their resilience, in order to find out what they are doing well and how this can be translated into programs that will work. This type of research also helps us understand which population groups are being left behind when it comes to youth engagement.

What opportunities do you see for future collaboration between the mental health promotion community and the general public on issues related to gender-transformative health promotion?

Collaboration is always key when it comes to working on health issues! Although there may be an increased awareness of certain stigmas within specific populations, many struggles remain hidden or ignored - which only makes the problem worse. Working with different stakeholders allows us to bring forth new perspectives that would otherwise not have been considered - something that is of value to all health outcomes. There are a variety of ways that this may occur, including simply better sharing information on existing models and programs through conferences or working together in local communities.