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First general textbook on women’s health

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Marina Morrow, 778.782.6906, mmorrow@sfu.ca
Olena Hankivsky, 778.782.5182, oah@sfu.ca
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035, cthorbes@sfu.ca

February 18, 2008
A groundbreaking new book on women’s health, co-edited by three researchers, two from Simon Fraser University and one from the University of British Columbia, is fast becoming a mainstay in health care teaching.

Six universities and colleges nationally have adopted Women’s Health in Canada: Critical Perspectives on Theory and Policy as a course textbook since the University of Toronto Press published it in the summer of 2007.

Psychologists, sociologists, social workers, nurses, political scientists, policy makers, and community activists are among 21 scholars in the field of women’s health who contributed to the book.

The SFU co-editors are Marina Morrow, an assistant professor in health sciences, and Olena Hankivsky, an associate professor in public policy. Their colleague and co-editor from UBC is Colleen Varcoe, an associate professor in nursing.

The book is the first in Canada to bring together established and emerging scholars in women’s health to discuss the links between theory and practice in this area.

Traditionally, doctors and researchers have assessed women’s health care needs on the basis of the assumption that a disease or condition and its treatment should be the same for men and women. Morrow notes that this often results in symptoms more common to women being overlooked and disregarded. As an example, she says: “Recognition of heart attacks in women is based on studies involving only men, with symptoms common to women often bypassed.”

Morrow is a community psychologist specializing in mental health reform, social inequity and gender and health. She says that society traditionally views women’s health through a medical lens, without assessing the impact of social determinants such as sexism, poverty and racism. This, she observes, leads to narrow treatment frameworks and poor health outcomes.

The researchers hope that issues identified in Women’s Health in Canada will generate discussion and further a women’s health agenda at a research and policy level nationally and internationally.

Marrow and Hankivsky, co-directors of SFU's Institute for Critical Studies in Gender and Health, are using the book as a primary textbook to team-teach a graduate course in women's health and policy. Both are Vancouver residents.

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