BACKGROUND: In the United Kingdom (UK), concern about inequalities in health and health care has led to interest in gender sensitivity in health policy and practice.
AIM: To develop an understanding of possibilities for gender sensitive care through exploring the concepts of gender and gender sensitivity and through reviewing relevant knowledge about gender and health.
METHODS: The dimensions of the concept of gender and theories explaining gender relations are explored through a review of key social science texts. A discussion of gender sensitivity draws on Bowden's analysis of gender sensitive ethics. A literature review of evidence about gender and health identifies relevant knowledge for gender sensitive care.
FINDINGS: Seven features of the concept of gender are identified. Gender sensitivity involves an understanding of the socio-political context of experience and relationships. The social context also affects health. Differences in male and female mortality and morbidity rates are likely to be related to differences in economic resources, differences in men and women's position in public and private worlds, to power in social relations and to sexuality and body image. Possibilities for gender sensitive care may be supported through feminist approaches and through a postmodernist understanding of the manner in which discourses shape our understanding of gender and gender relations. Valuing care is a feature of gender sensitivity.
CONCLUSION: Gender sensitive care involves recognizing the significance of research related to social influences on health and understanding nursing in its socio-political context, and care in the context of gender relations. Experiential learning can synthesize learning across varied learning modes, bridging learning through experience and formal analysis. Exploring concepts, evidence about gender and health and personal experience will all be important in the development of gender sensitive care.
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