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Integrating sex and gender into health and care research


Published: 11 December 2023

Version: 1.0

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Statement of intent: Integrating sex and gender into health and care research

The NIHR recognises that sex and gender play fundamental roles in individual and population health and care. They influence the conditions and symptoms people experience, disease progression, treatments, the care received and overall outcomes.

We know there is a gap in research related to the health and care of women. At the same time, women spend significantly longer living with poor health than men, and they often struggle to access the health services they need. Studying and understanding sex and gender differences and similarities is essential for improving the health of all people in the UK, including through areas such as evaluating the safety and effectiveness of diagnostics, medicines and care pathways, disaggregated by sex.

As outlined in NIHR’s Research Inclusion Strategy 2022-2027 we are committed to exploring an approach which enables and encourages our research community to integrate sex and gender into their research design, including in the disaggregation of research findings.

We are therefore setting out our statement of intent to achieve this ambition by:

  • continuing to work with a diverse group of sector stakeholders, via the MESSAGE initiative, to finalise a sex and gender policy framework for funders
  • engaging with NIHR stakeholders over the next 12 months to test the framework and to inform the development of a sustainable approach to implementing sex and gender integration into research design
  • developing an implementation plan which equips our research and advisory workforce with the skills and tools needed to support this policy change

We recognise that sector wide change is required to achieve this ambition. By collaborating with partners and stakeholders, we will develop a sustainable and impactful approach which will create the conditions to innovate and produce rigorous research, ultimately resulting in evidence which further improves health and care outcomes. By doing this, we will ensure that future research meets the needs of all people.

Professor Lucy Chappell
CEO of the National Institute for Health and Care Research
Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care

Dr Gail Marzetti
Deputy CEO of the National Institute for Health and Care Research
Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health and Social Care

Jo Lawton
Interim Head of Research Inclusion
National Institute for Health and Care Research

Read more about the steps we are taking towards reducing long-standing inequalities in health and care research, in our blog: Improving research through inclusive design: sex and gender.