What we are reading : Recommended resources from our library

Text Size: Normal / Medium / Large
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

By Barbara Bourrier-LaCroix from the CWHN Expert Review Advisory Committee, with Ellen Reynolds and Susan White, CWHN staff.

Women's Health: Intersections of Policy, Research, and Practice
Edited by Pat Armstrong & Jennifer Deadman (Canadian Scholar’s Press, 2008)

Featuring chapters by several members of Women and Health Care Reform, including Madeline Boscoe and Pat Armstrong, and Lorraine Greaves from the BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health, this collection of essays brings together a wealth of expertise on women’s health. The authors, a diverse group of researchers and activists, examine GBA through current health issues and their impacts on Aboriginal women, women with disabilities, rural and older women, immigrants and women living in poverty, among others. The essays clearly justify the need to approach health research, policy and practice with a gender lens—to improve health care for both women and men. The series of chapters focusing on women working in caring professions demonstrates many of the inequalities that persist in health care, and the final section presents a group of essays about putting gender-based knowledge and research into action in terms of policy and practice, learning from the lessons of the past to ensure a more equitable future.

Critical to care: The invisible women in health services
Pat Armstrong, Hugh Armstrong and Krista Scott-Dixon (University of Toronto Press, 2008)

Who are health-care workers? Is it a label we can only assign to doctors and nurses? Does it include those practising alternative medicines, such as homeopathy or naturopathy? What about lab technicians and nursing assistants, or cleaners and dietary workers? There is no clear answer to these questions, and many of these jobs in the health-care sector whose status is undefined are described as “ancillary,” and are most times seen as unimportant to health care. The work is invisible and undervalued, as it is done mainly by women, many of whom are recent immigrants or racialized. The authors of this book argue, however, that these jobs do play a critical role in health care, and those who do this work are indeed health-care workers. The health and well-being of these workers is integrally related to the effectiveness of the care they provide.

Women’s health in Canada: Critical perspectives on theory and policy
Edited by Marina Morrow, Olena Hankivsky and Colleen Varcoe (University of Toronto Press, 2007)

Health-care professionals recognize the distinctly different health-care needs and concerns of men and women. Women's health, in particular, has come into its own in the last two decades. In Canada, however, there has been little available in the way of a general text on women's health. This volume works toward filling that gap by providing a resource for teaching and understanding women's health in this country. The book brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars and practitioners from economics, anthropology, sociology, nursing, political studies, women's studies and psychology. Contributors draw on the rich history of the Canadian women's health movement, providing analysis of that history and of the emergent theory, policy and practice. Aimed at undergraduate and graduate students as well as practitioners, the collection adopts an intersectional approach, looking closely at social factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality and gender identity, and analysing how they relate both to each other and to women's health.

Where Are the Women?
Gender Equity, Budgets and Canadian Public Policy
By Janine Brodie & Isabella Bakker (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2008)

Stephen Harper's Conservative government has gone so far as to declare, in 2006, that the goal of gender equity has been achieved in Canada . However, as Brodie and Bakker argue in Where Are the Women? not only has the goal of gender equality not been met but the relentless attack on federal social programs over the past decade has actually undermined gender equity, as well as the well-being of Canadian women, especially the most vulnerable. A series of recommendations related to the governance of fiscal and social policy are provided in the book. Among them are: enhancing the capacity of gender units within government; increasing the capacity of Canadian governments to conduct effective gender-based analysis (GBA); and reforming budget planning and consultation processes to create gender-sensitive oversight mechanisms within the Department of Finance. All of these are objectives which the Canadian Women's Health Network shares and areas in which we have been active, especially supporting and encouraging the use of GBA in policy and program development within Health Canada.

The toxic consumer: Living healthy in a hazardous world
Karen Ashton and Elizabeth Salter Green (Sterling, 2008)

Most of us do things from time to time that we know can have a negative impact on our health—we might drink alcohol, eat saturated fats, or smoke cigarettes. But we do these things by choice, and we are aware of the risks involved. This book looks at the toxic chemicals we are exposed to, often without any choice. These toxic chemicals are in thousands of everyday products, and then they become part of our blood, our fat, our bodies. The chemicals that make things non-stick, flexible, flame-retardant, or stain-resistant are implicated in a staggering range of health issues, from birth defects to the rising rates of certain cancers.
We all want to know how to make informed, responsible choices about what we buy, for our own good and for the good of our planet. The authors provide us with the answers, precisely and accessibly. One by one, they break down such noxious substances as PFCs, phthalates, perchloroethylene, and formaldehyde, and explain what each one is and what threats it poses, what items contain these poisons, and how they interact with our bodies and affect our well-being. The authors then outline healthier options for bedding, flooring, cosmetics, clothing, food and drink, and everything else we may need—making positive recommendations that will help us to reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals in our daily lives.

Hormone disrupters and women’s health: Reasons for concern
(Collaborative on Health and the Environment, 2008)

The Collaborative on Health and the Environment, University of Florida and University of California (San Francisco) have produced an informative new primer on hormone disrupters and their impacts on women’s health. For those wanting to learn more about these chemicals (also known as endocrine disrupters) that mimic natural hormones in our bodies, this publication provides succinct definitions and is presented in a clear, plain language format. The publication describes some of the sources of hormone disruption and explains how these chemicals that we are exposed to daily are interfering with natural hormonal processes, leading to changes that may affect fertility, or lead to various reproductive system problems or cancer. The reader is also provided with strategies for limiting exposure to hormone disrupters. Using an attractive visual format, the brochure is accessible and filled with practical information. References are provided for those wanting to do their own research. Download the brochure from the Collaborative on Health and the Environment website at:

Tangled Routes: Women, Work and Globalization of the Tomato Trail, 2nd edition
Deborah Barndt (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007)

Now in a thoroughly revised and updated edition, Tangled Routes offers a vivid interdisciplinary examination of the global food system through the journey of a corporate tomato. Through case studies in the three NAFTA countries—Mexico, the United States, and Canada—Deborah Barndt examines the dynamic relationship between production and consumption, work and technology, biodiversity and cultural diversity, and health and environment. The vivid stories of women workers along the tomato trail humanize her analysis of globalization, taking into account the intersections of gender, race, class, family status, and north-south relations.

Calculated risks: The toxicity and human health risks of chemicals in our environment, 2nd edition
Joseph V. Rodricks (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Safeguarding economic prosperity, whilst protecting human health and the environment, is at the forefront of scientific and public interest. The author, an internationally recognized expert in the field of toxicology and risk analysis, provides a practical and balanced view on these subjects, addressing the interplay between science and public health policy. This revised and updated new edition provides a detailed analysis on chemical and by-product exposure, how they enter the body and the suitability of imposed safety limits. New chapters on dose, with particular emphasis on children and vulnerable subpopulations, reproductive and developmental toxicants and toxicity testing, are included. With updated and comprehensive coverage of international developments of risk management and safety, this will have broad appeal to researchers and professionals involved in chemical safety and regulation as well as the general reader interested in environmental pollution and public health.

Preventing disease through healthy environments: Towards an estimate of the environmental burden of disease
Annette Prüss-Üstün and Carlos F. Corvalán (World Health Organization, 2006)

How much disease can be prevented through healthier environments? This question lies at the heart of Canadian and global efforts to address the root causes of ill health through improved preventive health strategies—using a full range of policies, interventions and technologies. This study examines how specific diseases and injuries are impacted by environmental risks, and which regions and populations are most vulnerable to environmentally-mediated diseases and injuries. The authors confirm that approximately one-quarter of the global disease burden, and more than one-third of the burden among children, is due to environmental factors that can be changed. The analysis here also goes a step further, and systematically analyzes how different diseases are impacted by environmental risks, and by how much. These findings underline the fact that the environment is a platform for good health that we all share. Acting together on the basis of coordinated health, environment and development policies, those who work in the health-care sector can strengthen this platform, and make a real difference in human well-being and quality of life.
Available online at www.who.int

Making space for indigenous feminism
Edited by Joyce Green (Fernwood Publishing, 2006)

The slim literature base on Indigenous women contains virtually nothing by Indigenous authors claiming to be feminists or to write about Indigenous feminism. The majority of scholarly and activist opinion by and about Indigenous women claims that feminism is irrelevant for them. Yet there is also an articulate, theoretically informed and activist constituency that identifies as feminist. In response to this dichotomy, Joyce Green organized the Aboriginal Feminism Symposium. This book forms part of an effort to build on the achievements of the Symposium, that is, to stake out some discursive space and to provide evidence that, for some Indigenous women, feminism has some theoretical and political utility. It explores the theory of Indigenous feminism, particular political eras and issues where Indigenous feminism played a role, and gives voice to individual Indigenous feminists who talk both about their particular political struggles and about their feminism. Most contributions are from Canada and the United States, but with some from Samiland (Norway) and New Zealand, opening up a dialogue on the realities and complexities facing Indigenous women who identify as 'feminist.'

Big, beautiful & pregnant: Expert advice and comforting wisdom for the expecting plus-size woman
Cornelia Van de Ziel and Jacqueline Tourville (Marlowe & Company, 2006)

Until now, it has been difficult for plus-size women to find resources that adequately address weight-related pregnancy issues. Even with current statistics showing that more than half of all childbearing age women in the United States are considered overweight or obese, most pregnancy books contain minimal information about plus-size pregnancy. Because understanding your pregnancy is so central to taking good care yourselves, a book like this is long overdue. The authors, an obstetrician who has cared for countless plus-size patients and a childbirth professional who has become pregnant just as her weight reached an all-time high, offer a medically sound guide for over-weight women on what to expect during each trimester of pregnancy and during childbirth. The book also includes special sections on nutrition and safe prenatal exercises.