Health Portfolio Sex and Gender-Based Analysis Policy

Policy Statement

It is the policy of the Government of Canada’s Health Portfolio to use sex and gender-based analysis to develop, implement and evaluate the Health Portfolio’s research, legislation, policies, programs and servicesFootnote i to address the different needs of women and menFootnote ii.

Definitions for key concepts are provided in the last section of this document.

Effective Date

This policy came into effect on July 8, 2009.


This policy applies to the Health Portfolio and replaces Health Canada’s Gender-Based Analysis Policy (2000). The Health Portfolio organizations that have endorsed this policy are the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Health Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Policy requirements

Deputy Heads are responsible for providing leadership to ensure collaboration in implementing this policy across the Health Portfolio, while remaining accountable for implementation within their respective organizations. Roles and responsibilities may be delegated by the Deputy Heads, particularly as it relates to:

  1. Ensuring resources are available for policy implementation; and
  2. Ensuring the evaluation of this policy.

Health Canada’s Gender and Health Unit (Strategic Policy Branch) is responsible for supporting a collaborative implementation of the policy. This responsibility is shared with the Health Portfolio Working Group on Sex and Gender-Based Analysis, chaired by the Unit.

All Portfolio staff are responsible for using sex and gender-based analysis, as appropriate, in their work and normally assigned duties.

Policy Environment

The Government of Canada commits to gender equality as per constitutional guarantees and international agreements.Footnote iii
The Federal Plan for Gender Equality promotes gender equality through the implementation of gender-based analysis across federal departments and agencies.
The Health Canada Gender-Based Analysis Policy advances equality through the use of gender-based analysis.
The Health Canada Gender-Based Analysis Implementation Strategy guides the adoption of the policy.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Guidelines for Gender and Sex-Based Analysis in Health Research aims at integrating gender and sex-based analysis throughout the full context of Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s peer review process.
Central Agencies reinforce their expectation that gender-based analysis be applied to initiatives prior to Cabinet and Treasury Board considerations (e.g. Privy Council Office’s Memorandum to Cabinet Information Requirements and Treasury Board Secretariat’s Guide to Preparing Treasury Board Submissions).
Office of the Auditor General audits the implementation of gender-based analysis across government and tables a report in May 2009. Central Agencies and Status of Women Canada respond with the Departmental Action Plan on Gender-Based Analysis in October 2009.
The Health Portfolio Sex and Gender-Based Analysis Policy comes into effect, subject to periodic reviews and updates. The term “sex and gender-based analysis” is adopted to emphasize the importance of sex or biological differences in the health sector.
Status of Women Canada updates the term “gender-based analysis” to “gender-based analysis plus”. This new approach emphasizes the consideration of other identity factors such as age, education, language, geography, culture and income.


Evidence demonstrates that biological, economic and social differences between diverse groups of women and men contribute to differences in health risks, health services use, health system interaction and health outcomes. The integration of sex and gender-based analysis throughout the development, implementation and evaluation of Health activities will help ensure that all Portfolio initiatives lead to sound science to effectively address the different needs of women and men.

This policy supports:

  • a comprehensive understanding of variations in health status, experiences of health and illness, health service use and interaction with the Canadian health and food safety systems;
  • the development of sound science and reliable evidence that addresses sex and gender health differences between women and men; and
  • the implementation of rigorous and effective research, programs and policies that address sex and gender health differences between women and men.

Guiding Principles

  • Accountability - While recognizing shared responsibility across the Health Portfolio for policy and legislative compliance, accountabilities must be delineated for implementation, accompanied by the authority to effect change and provide direction. Such authority will rest with, and can be delegated by Deputy Heads.
  • Continuous Improvement - The Health Portfolio is committed to building on its experience and incorporating lessons learned and best practices in order to advance gender equity and equality in health.
  • Integrated Approach - Sex and gender-based analysis applied in the context of diversity is a best practice that will remain a natural part of Health Portfolio activities and be fully integrated into organizational processes and practices.
  • Balance - Sex and gender-based analysis will be used to evaluate the gender influences on Portfolio activities to ensure that the needs of one sex are not addressed more than another.
  • Shared Responsibility - It is the responsibility of senior management to provide the leadership necessary to ensure the implementation of sex and gender-based analysis within their Health Portfolio organizations. On the other hand, the successful implementation of sex and gender-based analysis requires the participation of all Health Portfolio staff.


Deputy Heads are responsible for ensuring that Health Portfolio organizations implement the Health Portfolio Sex and Gender-Based Analysis Policy and to jointly review, and revise it as necessary, at planned intervals. They may achieve this by appointing a Champion(s) as well as creating a special unit or committee charged with this responsibility.

Deputy Heads are also accountable for ensuring that activities under this policy are reported under this and any other relevant policies.

Evaluation and Revision

To ensure optimal efficacy, the policy will be monitored on an on-going basis, evaluated and revised as necessary at least once every five years. As the Health Portfolio membership changes, the policy will be amended accordingly.


Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender is usually conceptualized as a binary (girl/woman and boy/man) yet there is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience, and express it.
Gender-Based Analysis
Gender-based analysis is an analytical tool to assist in systematically integrating gender considerations into the policy, planning and decision-making processes.
Sex refers to a set of biological attributes in humans and animals. It is primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy. Sex is usually categorized as female or male but there is variation in the biological attributes that comprise sex and how those attributes are expressed.
Sex and Gender-Based Analysis

Sex and gender-based analysis is a systematic approach to research, legislation, policies, programs and services that explores biological (sex-based) and socio, cultural (gender-based) similarities and differences between women, and men, boys and girls.  It involves asking additional questions in research and/or policy and program development about men and women, boys and girls, identifying existing evidence and gaps in evidence. It challenges us to identify how differences will be considered.

SGBA is meant to be applied within the context of a diversity framework, that attends to the ways in which determinants such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, migration status, age and geography interact with sex and gender to contribute to exposures to various risk factors, disease courses and outcomes. Using a SGBA lens brings these considerations into focus and can help to formulate research, policies, programs and legislation that are relevant to the diversity of the Canadian populace.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: