RHN workshop on gender health, women’s health strategy and men’s health strategy, Lugano (Ticino Region), Switzerland, 17–18 April 2018


A growing body of evidence supports the use of gender-responsive approaches to promoting the health and well-being of women and men, and boys and girls. Since gender-related norms and roles have a strong influence on risk factors for disease, policy-makers need to consider their relationship with the socioeconomic, cultural and environmental determinants of health across the life-course. The gender-equality agenda demands policy and action that engage men and women in transforming their roles and norms to achieve better health for all.

In 2016, the WHO Regional Committee for Europe adopted the Strategy on women’s health and well-being in the WHO European Region, which concretizes the links between gender, gender equality and women’s health and recommends a number of key actions. The Strategy was backed by data presented in the WHO report, “Women’s health and well-being in Europe: beyond the mortality advantage” (2016).

A similar strategy on men’s health is being developed and will be submitted to the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in September 2018.

It is the aim of both strategies to operationalize Health 2020: the European policy for health and well-being. In addition, their aims are closely linked with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 3 on health for all at all ages, SDG 5 on gender equality and women empowerment, and SDG 10 on reducing inequalities.

To deepen the understanding of and support commitment to promoting gender health, RHN organized a session on the women’s health strategy during the 23rd annual meeting of the Network in Kaunas, Lithuania, in September 2016, and a workshop entitled “Transformative health promotion: why gender stereotypes and culture matter” during the 10th European Public Health Conference in Älvsjö, Sweden, in November 2017.

Thanks to the interest in this topic shown by the Ticino Region (Switzerland) – a funding member of RHN – the WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development, Venice, Italy, of the WHO Regional Office for Europe could follow up on these activities during the RHN workshop on “Gender health, women’s health strategy, men’s health strategy”, which took place in Lugano (Ticino Region), Switzerland, on 17–18 April 2018. Twenty-five people from ten regions participating in the Network took part.

The general aim of the workshop was to create a critical mass of professionals active at the subnational level who would be able to boost the implementation of the strategies on women’s and men’s health and spread a clear understanding of gender health. Its main objectives were to:

  • build capacity for and skills in gender-responsive approaches to health, and consider their potential for accelerating achievement of the SDGs;
  • discuss the WHO Regional Office for Europe’s key initiatives on gender and health in the light of expertise available in, and contributions and examples from, the subnational level, with a focus on monitoring the implementation of the Strategy on women’s health and well-being and the development of a strategy on men’s health and well-being;
  • decide on priorities for collaboration with RHN, and for WHO support of initiatives in the regions.

Giorgio Merlani, Chief Medical Officer of the Ticino Region, and Paolo Beltraminelli, Director of the Department of Health and Social Welfare of the Ticino Region, Lugano, Switzerland, opened the workshop and welcomed the numerous RHN and local participants.

Francesco Zambon, Coordinator, Investment for Health and Development (HES) in Healthy Settings, WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development, Venice, Italy, of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, introduced the working sessions and presented RHN and its mission.

Isabel Yordi Aguirre, Technical Officer, Equity, Social Determinants, Gender and Rights, WHO Regional Office for Europe, spoke about the challenge of integrating gender into health policies, presented information about relevant WHO concepts, tools and strategies, the Strategy on women’s health and well-being in the WHO European Region and synergies between the Strategy and the SDGs.

Maria del Mar Garcia Calvente, Professor, Gender Studies and Health, Andalusia School of Public Health, Granada, Spain, illustrated the Andalusian innovative experience in monitoring gender inequalities in health at subnational level.

On the second day of the workshop, Isabel Yordi Aguirre introduced the draft strategy on men’s health and well-being and opened a debate on the concept of masculinity and how it can affect men’s relationships, behaviour, social roles, health and health-seeking practice.

Finally, an interactive working session allowed the regions to discuss priority areas for collaboration and to define their commitments in relation to gender and health.

The following proposals were made.

  • Share indicators, toolkits and assessment instruments already developed in the regions.
  • Monitor gender/related programmes related to gender at the subnational level;
  • Analyse regional health profiles and epidemiological data on women’s and men’s health, taking a gender perspective.
  • Develop initiatives to introduce regional policies and programmes related to gender and equity, bridging the gap between formal documents (such as regional strategic prevention plans) and the practical implementation of their recommendations.
  • Embed gender themes in the legislation, based on an intersectoral equity approach.
  • Share regional examples of good practice in addressing the concept of masculinity that may be helpful to other regions in conveying healthy messages on the topic.
  • Set up a glossary on gender health (for translation into local languages) and tools for communicating on gender-related issues, according to the Framework for Gender-transformative Health Promotion.
  • Collect case studies illustrating regional experiences and good practice in tackling gender health for inclusion in a WHO publication.

The next workshop on women’s and men’s health will take place on 12 June 2018 during the 24th annual meeting of the Regions for Health Network in Gothenborg, Sweden (11–12 June 2018).

RHN was established in 1993 with the aim of:

  • creating synergy between regions and stakeholders in the field of health (mutual learning);
  • strengthening cooperation/collaboration between regional and local actors and the international institutions in health;
  • promoting the contributions of regions and local authorities, particularly health authorities, to the international policy-making process; and
  • increasing understanding of regional and local health systems (exchange of experiences).