Three scholars from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have called for clearer distinctions between sex and gender in health data in an article published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO) on October 1, 2023.
“Effectively tracking progress on initiatives focused on gender equity requires clear differentiation between the terms sex and gender. Sex usually refers to a person’s biological characteristics, whereas gender refers to socially constructed roles and norms,” the WHO article states. “Their fundamental distinctions, however, have implications for the conduct of research and the design of interventions targeting sex- and gender-based health disparities.”
The article, entitled “Differentiating sex and gender in health research to achieve gender equity,” calls for actions including using a “two-step data collection process to determine both sex and gender of individuals, and encouraging recognition of intersex, third gender, transgender and gender nonbinary people… With clearer distinctions between these foundational terms and how they are used in health data, we can achieve more accurate research findings, better-tailored interventions and better progress towards gender equity.”
The article was written by three members of the Gender Equity Unit at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Principal Investigator Michelle R. Kaufman, PhD; Assistant Scientist Tahilin Sanchez Karver, PhD, MPH; and Evan L. Eschliman, PhD, currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University.