UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Are we moving the dial? Canadian health research funding trends for women’s health, 2S/LGBTQ + health, sex, or gender considerations Stranges, Tori N.; Namchuk, Amanda B.; Splinter, Tallinn F. L.; Moore, Katherine N.; Galea, Liisa A. M.


Background: Sex and gender impacts health outcomes and disease risk throughout life. The health of women and members of the Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning (2S/LGBTQ +) community is often compromised as they experience delays in diagnosis. Distinct knowledge gaps in the health of these populations have prompted funding agencies to mandate incorporation of sex and gender into research. Sex- and gender-informed research perspectives and methodology increases rigor, promotes discovery, and expands the relevance of health research. Thus, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) implemented a sex and gender-based analysis (SGBA) framework recommending the inclusion of SGBA in project proposals in 2010 and then mandating the incorporation of SGBA into grant proposals in 2019. To examine whether this mandate resulted in increased mention of sex or gender in funded research abstracts, we searched the publicly available database of grant abstracts funded by CIHR to analyze the percentage of abstracts that mentioned sex or gender of the population to be studied in the funded research. To better understand broader health equity issues we also examined whether the funded grant abstracts mentioned either female-specific health research or research within the 2S/LGBTQ + community. Results: We categorized a total of 8,964 Project and Operating grant abstracts awarded from 2009 to 2020 based on their study of female-specific or a 2S/LGBTQ + populations or their mention of sex or gender. Overall, under 3% of grant abstracts funded by CIHR explicitly mentioned sex and/or gender, as 1.94% of grant abstracts mentioned sex, and 0.66% mentioned gender. As one of the goals of SGBA is to inform on health equity and understudied populations with respect to SGBA, we also found that 5.92% of grant abstracts mentioned female-specific outcomes, and 0.35% of grant abstracts focused on the 2S/LGBTQ + community. Conclusions: Although there was an increased number of funded grants with abstracts that mentioned sex and 2S/LGBTQ + health across time, these increases were less than 2% between 2009 and 2020. The percentage of funded grants with abstracts mentioning female-specific health or gender differences did not change significantly over time. The percentage of funding dollars allocated to grants in which the abstracts mentioned sex or gender also did not change substantially from 2009 to 2020, with grant abstracts mentioning sex or female-specific research increasing by 1.26% and 3.47%, respectively, funding allocated to research mentioning gender decreasing by 0.49% and no change for 2S/LGBTQ +-specific health. Our findings suggest more work needs to be done to ensure the public can evaluate what populations will be examined with the funded research with respect to sex and gender to advance awareness and health equity in research.

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