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Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social Policies / Edition 1

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Gender and Health is the first book to examine how men's and women's lives and their physiology contribute to differences in their health. In a thoughtful synthesis of diverse literatures, the authors demonstrate that modern societies' health problems ultimately involve a combination of policies, personal behavior, and choice. The book is designed for researchers, policymakers, and others who seek to understand how the choices of individuals, families, communities, and governments contribute to health. It can inform men and women at each of these levels how to better integrate health implications into their everyday decisions and actions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...the text represents a useful addition to the field, particularly in relation to the careful attention paid to the real choices open to men and women, and the constraints placed on these by gender roles, families, work and environmental factors, and policy. Bird and Rieker offer key insights into the reasons why simple health promotion messages often fail, and as such this text is essential reading for policy makers as well as academics interested in explanations of gender inequalities in health. The book would also be of value for those teaching gender and health and for students taking courses relating to wider health equalities and public health policy." - Sex Roles

"Bird and Rieker move us beyond the stereotypes about men and women's bodies and minds. They argue that examining the ways in which specific biological differences interact with the daily lives of men and women that are constrained in gender-based ways, can help us to improve both women's and men's lives. They draw upon the basic feminist sociological insight that while biological sex differences between men and women are very small, and men's and women's bodies are far more similar than they are different, we live in a gendered society, where our daily lives, experiences, responsibilities and opportunities are shaped at every level by gender, whether consciously or not." - Huffington Post

"...the synthesis of knowledge presented in this book, coming from diverse fields, is quite refreshing, and it certainly makes a significant attempt to replace narrow views. The volume is clearly written, well organized, and supported by a wealth of research evidence. The book provides an important and timely contribution to the understanding of some of the differences in health of men and women. Researchers, policy makers, and individuals who want to understand the ways in which differences in women's and men's social lives and physiology contribute to the differences in their health will benefit from this book." - Gender & Society

"All in all this book provides a new and important look into the issue of gender differences in health and provides the psychologist with many new levels of analysis and questions to test." - Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

"The book is a great resource for students and professionals seeking to understand the interrelations between policy and practice at the macro, mezzo, and micro levels, following an ecological perspective.... It integrates the core areas of social work when analyzing gender and health, and the reader walks away with a well-rounded idea of the interactions between multiple levels of policy and practice." - The New Social Worker Online

"This book is clearly written, giving depth and meaning to the complexity of gender differences in health while acknowledging diversity among women and men. The key argument - that gender differences in health can best be explained through the coordinated study of social and biological factors and that social constraints affect life choices and individuals' susceptibility to chronic conditions - seems eminently reasonable and sensible.... I would... defy anyone to come away from reading this important volume thinking that gender does not matter in the dialogue about health and its determinants." - Health Sociology Review

"One of the strengths of this book lies in its comprehensive overview of the state of research on gender differences in health. By providing interesting evidence for variations in gender differences in health across different organizational contexts, the reader is invited to grapple with these issues too. The book is therefore ideal for graduate students and makes a useful reference for those who teach on gender differences in health.... [T]he authors are to be commended for a book that is accessible, interesting and timely. This book is likely to become an important reference for researchers seeking to unravel the paradox in gender differences in health." - Canadian Journal of Sociology

"Both authors have feet planted firmly in the realms of sociology and policy, and it is perhaps this dual perspective which lends the book a refreshing sense of urgency. They conclude with a list of specific policy recommendations for medical and scientific communities, federal and local policy makers, employers, families, and individuals. The reader is left with an awareness of the enormous amount of work to be done in analyzing how social and biological factors shape health, while also convinced of the importance of this task." - Sociological Inquiry

"In their book Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social Policies, Chloe Bird and Patricia Rieker have used an interdisciplinary approach to understand this complex issue.... The authors should be applauded for their collective attempt to further the dialogue among biomedical researchers and social scientists." - PsycCRITIQUES

"...Gender and Health provides excellent reviews of relevant research literature published over the last 20 years on gender and health. It provides a valuable conceptual model of the ways in which 'constrained choices' at the three levels of national social policies, the community and neighbourhood, and work and family life differently affect men's and women's health." - International Journal of Men's Health

" the book reveals some hidden corners of practical value, I recommend this well referenced, concise, authentic, readable, informative, and thought provoking book, not only to researchers and policy makers but also to public health practitioners worldwide." - Public Health

"Their presentation of the literature is unbiased, and each chapter is summarized and flows, providing the reader with a 'storylike' presentation that is neither dull nor boring. One does not get caught up in the tangled web of research statistics that is often found in reviews. Researchers may use this new model to explain gender disparities in health better.... Bird and Rieker's work was a delight to read and is highly recommended for students, educators, clinicians, and policy makers." - Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work

"Bird and Rieker's publication is a timely, modest step towards regaining a sense of proportion between an individual behavioural focus and a focus on social, systemic, and structural determinants of health and well-being." - Global Health Promotion

Bird and Rieker make explicit the assumptions on which they build their model of constrained choice.... This formulated analysis has a major implication for health policy: if social policy, community, work, and family constraints on individuals' choices about health-related matters were reduced, especially with respect to their sex biases, then sex-based disparities in health might diminish. The analysis likewise has a major implication for clinical practice: physicians should not assume that responsibility for a patient's current health status is reducible simply to that patient's choices, as if those choices were free of potent social constraints.
New England Journal of Medicine
Gender and Health does not provide answers to the questions posed. Rather, the authors challenge their readers to adopt a broader perspective in their approach to the formulation and evaluation of social policy, the conduct of research, and the provision of patient care through an integrated consideration of the biological and social dimensions of gender.
Psychology of Women Quarterly
This book is essential for students and researchers of public policy. It is also invaluable to health psychologists.... [It] increases our understanding of how social policies affect individuals' choices, which is necessary in understanding the factors that affect the ease with which one can choose health. At the same time, this book also encourages individuals to be more cognizant of how decisions, such as whether to take a new job or move, are influenced by the complex interactions between their gender, their surrounding families, communities, workplaces, and societies.
This volume is clearly written, well organized, and well referenced.... Libraries will find this to be a useful acquisition in support of health sciences/public health, gender studies, or public policy programs.... Recommended.
Contemporary Sociology
Gender and Health is an ambitious book with multiple aims and multiple intended audiences.... The authors' attention to macrolevel influences on health outcomes-in the form of social policies, local social and built environments, and workplace conditions-is important and salutary.
Social Service
This book has a number of strengths. The authors present an up-to-date examination of current research and use a zoom-in, zoom-out approach, going from individuals to international policies (and back again). They offer an innovative conceptual framework rooted in sociological theories that include rational choice and life course perspectives. Virtually no stone is left unturned in their examination of the gender paradox; the coverage is encyclopedic.... this book is a must-read for policy analysts, public health planners, researchers from diverse fields, and anyone interested in gender and health disparities.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521682800
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 274
  • Sales rank: 1,121,895
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Chloe E. Bird, PhD, is a Senior Sociologist at RAND, Professor of Sociology at the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School, Associate Editor of Women's Health Issues and the immediate past Chair of the Medical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association. Her research focuses on assessing the determinants of gender and racial/ethnic differences in the physical and mental health of individuals and in the health care they receive. Dr Bird has led numerous NIH-funded studies on gender and racial/ethnic differences in health and health care and on neighborhood effects on health. In current work, she is exploring how characteristics of a neighborhood's social and built environment contribute to the health of men and women and to racial/ethnic disparities in health. This interdisciplinary work is intended to help target interventions to reduce health disparities. Dr Bird has published in a wide range of journals and has co-authored numerous book chapters and reports, including two recent reports for the Office of Women's Health. In 1995, Dr Bird received the Elliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award from the Medical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association. Her work has repeatedly been recognized among the most outstanding abstracts at the Academy Health Annual Research Meeting; in 2006, she was awarded a month-long collaborative residency by the Rockefeller Foundation to work at their Bellagio Center in Italy.

Patricia P. Rieker is Adjunct Professor of Sociology at Boston University, Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Sociology) at Harvard Medical School, and Emeritus Professor at Simmons College. She was formerly the Director of Psychosocial Research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where her research focused on health care outcomes for men with genitourinary cancers. Dr Rieker is also an evaluation research consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has worked with the Research Triangle Institute, the National Office of the American Cancer Society and National Women's Resource Center, and SAMHSA. Among her numerous publications are several co-edited books: The Gender Gap in Psychotherapy: Social Realities and Psychological Processes and Mental Health: Racism and Sexism (which was named an Outstanding Book by the Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America). Her current research interests include cross-national comparisons of gender and health, the determinants of health care outcomes, and evaluation research capacity building.

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Table of Contents

1. Gender differences in health: are they biological, social or both?; 2. Gender and barriers to health: constrained choice in everyday decisions; 3. National social policies and constrained choice; 4. The impact of community on health; 5. Priorities and expectations: men's and women's work, family life and health; 6. Gender and individual health choices; 7. Opportunities for change.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2008

    A reviewer

    For years I have searched for an excellent book on Gender & Health. Bird & Rieker do an amazing job of analyzing the current literature & setting a framework for future studies. The book is well-written and innovative, a must-read for researchers and students interested in this topic. Professionals from multiple disciplines (demography, sociology, gerontology, health policy, public health, psychology) would benefit greatly from reading this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 8, 2008

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