Academic journal article Canadian Woman Studies

Thinking Women and Health Care Reform in Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Woman Studies

Thinking Women and Health Care Reform in Canada

Article excerpt


Pat Armstrong, Barbara Clow, Karen Grant, Margaret Haworth-Brockman, Beth Jackson, Ann Pederson, and Morgan Seeley, Eds.

Toronto: Women's Press, 2012

Thinking Women and Health Care Reform in Canada explores women's roles as both patients and practitioners in the Canadian health care system. Armstrong et al. begin with the premise that although the value of universal health care is established in Canadian society, its unique implications for women are rarely addressed in calls for reform. Their study attempts to fill this lacuna by offering a gendered analysis of the organization of Canada's health care system and the social structures necessary to maintain it. By extending their research to include the role of unpaid care work in maintaining Canada's health care system they challenge previously held assumptions about the scope of health care analysis.

Written by members of Women and Health Care Reform (WHCR), this book is billed as a "legacy project" updating more than a decade of their collective research before they disband due to federal budget restructuring. The anthology's coherence belies the individual authors' varied backgrounds; their history of collaboration is evident in the cohesiveness of this work. Each chapter incorporates similar methodological tools and theoretical foundations achieved through the use of four complementary frameworks--feminist political economy, feminist epistemologies, sex- and gender-based analysis, and intersectionality--all of which allow for a conception of health that includes both individuals and communities. In so doing, they provide a broad overview of the organization of healthcare in Canada, while highlighting a cross-section of prominent issues in care that would benefit from a gendered analysis, including: residential long-term care, home care, the mental health of health care workers, private health insurance, and obesity.

This collection argues that all aspects of health care are, indeed, women's issues. Armstrong et al. grapple with the inherent problem of assuming a single category of "women" but opt to utilize this term in a strategic capacity, reflecting the use of this category in health policy, while recognizing the unique issues of identity and power that fundamentally divide this group. To this end, they ask not only "what are the issues for women?" in health, but also "which women are affected in what ways?"

Woven throughout this collection are references to women's unpaid care work as figuring prominently in the foundation of Canada's health care system. …

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