Editorial: The Canadian Institutes of Health Research: Will they benefit women?

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by Madeline Boscoe

The loss of funding for health research and increasing "research" done by corporations has disturbed us. We know research, more importantly useful participatory research, helps ensure that health services and other services actually improve our health and social status.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) recently received federal funding to coordinate and support Canadian health research. The CIHR will establish 10-15 institutes across Canada to work in several research areas.

This puts the CIHR in a great position to further health research. But as the CIHR is in its early stages, it is worrying to see little understanding of women's health issues.

The CIHR first planned to put women's health issues in one "institute" the one working on child and maternal care.

To relegate women to childbirth and motherhood means gender as a health determinant is clearly not understood. Also, in spite of talk about partnerships with non-governmental organizations, the CIHR appears to have little, if any, priority to work with community-based or participatory research.

It is also highly likely that funding for research for the CIHR will favour biomedical research. This is of course important, but it is not simply biology that affects our health.

A coalition of the Centres of Excellence for Women's Health (collaborating with the CWHN) wrote the CIHR Task Force to suggest that not only should there be an institute devoted to women's health broadly defined, but all the health institutes should examine sex and gender.

Since then one of the Centres' directors, Lorraine Greaves from BC, was appointed to their steering committee.

That's one down and many to go.

In the Fall issue of Network when we told you about the proposed changes to the Health Protection Branch, we could also tell you about women's health activists monitoring that process. We don't have the same news in this case.

There appears to be no such group monitoring this process besides the Centres of Excellence.

We need to get involved.

We need more critical voices heard to make sure women's health research moves forward.

Madeline Boscoe

Executive Coordinator
The Canadian Women's Health Network