Innovative new resource supports public health message makers to do better.
Monica Dux, Age columnist, author and women’s issues commentator said: “Doing Better: Gender-Transformative Public Health Messages is an important and opportune resource. The Australian Women’s Health Network have provided a clear and concise guide on how to best integrate gender into public health messages, as well as offering a persuasive argument as to why getting such public health messages right is so crucial, not just in order to be more inclusive, but also so that we might achieve better health outcomes for all.”
Professor Heather Yeatman, President of the Public Health Association of Australia said: “The new guidelines, Doing Better: Gender-Transformative Public Health Messages, are a very welcome and timely contribution to public health practice, particularly health messaging in the media. Gender, along with other social determinants of health, creates conditions for health or ill-health, so public health initiatives need to ensure they don’t reinforce social stereotypes.”
“The guidelines provide very practical advice on how to present our public health messages and they challenge us to demand more social responsibility from practitioners and governments about both gender and health equity,” she added.
AWHN CEO Kelly Banister said there is an increasing understanding that women and men experience different health issues, higher risk for some illnesses or diseases, or even the same conditions differently. Among women and among men, there are also different opportunities for health and well-being, often affected by social, cultural and economic factors.
“It is not enough to be sensitive to sex and gender issues when creating health messages,” Ms Banister said.
“Being discriminated against and stereotyped clearly leads to poor health outcomes. The use and exploitation of gender stereotypes to get a health message across reinforces the stereotype and undermines the health of those targeted by the message,”
“Smoking cessation messages targeting pregnant women, for example, that shame a woman into stopping smoking is likely to increase her levels of stress and therefore her risk of developing mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression and self-harm. Messages that shame lead to social isolation, or hiding the behavior, which in turn reduces her access to appropriate services,” Ms Banister said.
“Taking all of these issues into account – the different experience of health, different access to resources for health, and sex role stereotyping – will make sure that public health messages and campaigns are effective and relevant to all Australians. For example, tailoring messages on smoking prevention to girls and boys, taking into account their particular circumstances is a powerful response to heavily gendered tobacco marketing messages, such as the rugged man and sophisticated woman.”
It is crucial to make sure messages, campaigns and information designed to promote health and generate consideration of healthy choices do not reinforce negative gender stereotypes in public health and health promotion. The principles and planning steps in this resource will assist agencies, governments, public health and health promotion practitioners and policy makers in creating initiatives that make such a positive difference.
“The end goal is to ensure that public health messages and health promotion are highly successful, resulting in better overall improved health for all people regardless of gender,” Ms Banister said.
AWHN stands up to advance women’s health and well-being.
With our partners, we bring our expertise to influence policy and reform.