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Abstract

The aim of this paper was to examine, via a scoping review, how the literature focusing on immigrant women’s health, based on selected criteria, has been able to capture not only sex and gender differences but also the other socially grounded determinants of health. Using selected health databases as well as a diversity of keywords, a final sample of 59 was obtained after a number of steps to increase validity and credibility of the process were taken. Since “women” was one of the main keywords, all of the studies included women either by themselves (n=20/59) or along with men (n=39/59). In 34 (57.6%) of the papers reviewed, gender was defined above and beyond “sex” (i.e. some discussion was provided regarding the social context of the study population prior to the presentation of the goal of the study). Ethnicity was merely mentioned without being expanded upon and at times being substituted with race in 26 (44%) of the papers reviewed. Migration was defined in 22 (37.2%) of the papers and was predominantly operationalized by length of stay in the country. While the concepts at hand represent important units of analysis within women’s health research, most studies neglected to either capture gender specificities beyond sex as a biological variable, or to define migration experiences beyond ethnic identity.

Anchored within women’s health scholarship seeking for conceptual clarity and accuracy, this paper pleads for an improved consideration of the multiple and interactive social and biological determinants of health, as well as structural conditions at the basis of structural inequities; If the production of socially grounded women’s health research depends upon accurate, fully integrated and applied conceptualizations of relevant dimensions, how can this be facilitated by policy-makers, health research funding bodies, the researchers themselves and ultimately by health care practitioners?

Note on the Author

Bilkis Vissandjee, Ph.D., Professor, School of Nursing, University of Montreal, Montréal. The common theme of Dr. Vissandjee’s work is to better understand the relationship between gender, culture and migration as social determinants of health. Her research addresses the need for gender and diversity sensitive indicators that value and reflect women’s lives, work, productivity, and social, cultural and economic security over the lifespan.

Ilene Hyman, Ph.D., Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, Toronto, ON. Dr. Hyman’s expertise is in the areas of health and access to health care for immigrants and women’s health. Her research includes examining intimate partner violence in newcomer communities including studies of prevalence, risk factors and help-seeking behaviour. She is also the author of several policy reports on women’s health and immigration and health.

Denise L. Spitzer, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Gender, Migration & Health, Institute of Women’s Studies & Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario. Dr. Spitzer’s area of work and interests include Health of immigrant and refugee women, Immigration, transnationalism and identity, Critical perspectives of the body, science and technology and Community-based research.

Alisha Apale, B.A., Research Assistant, School of Nursing, University of Montreal. Alisha Apale is a research assistant at the University of Montreal and an MBA candidate in Health Care Management. She worked on the Thai-Burma border with non-status Burmese refugees. She also spent 6 months as a research intern in Gujarat, India conducting a study on women’s access to quality health care and information and the influences of social capital therein.

Nahar Kamrun, MSc., Research Assistant, School of Nursing, University of Montreal. As research assistant of Professor Bilkis Vissandjée, Nahar Kamrun works on themes such as Gender, Ethnicity and Migration as social determinants of health. She also worked for International Centre for Health & Population Research (ICDDR,B) in the area of reproductive health of rural women in Bangladesh.

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