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The Swedish GHEN team have been involved in two separate initiatives: supporting gender sensitive implementation of the new Swedish Public Health Strategy; and a research study into inequalities in health by social class.

In October 2000, the National Public Health Commission in Sweden presented its final report to the Minister of Health and Social Affairs, containing a proposal for national objectives for public health and strategies to achieve them. The targets and strategies emphasise the social determinants of health (e.g. reducing poverty and unemployment, improving working conditions, improving children's living conditions) and will contribute to the reduction of social inequalities in health between socio-economic groups, women and men, ethnic groups and geographical regions.

The Government will present a comprehensive Public Health Bill, based on suggestions from the Commission, to the Swedish Parliament in December 2002.

A Gender and Health Working Group was established in October 2002 consisting of gender experts from the National Institute of Public Health and relevant authorities (e.g. Ministry of Health, National Board of Health and Welfare, Federation of County Councils, Federation of Municipalities, Universities, NGOs and Trade Unions). The working group will support gender sensitive implementation of public health strategies at national, regional and local levels.

The GHEN team are also undertaking a research study to investigate why socio-economic status, measured by occupation, has a lower explanatory value for women compared to men in studies on social class inequalities in health. Three hypotheses are being investigated:

  • the hypothesis that low social position is a less powerful risk factor for women's health than it is for men will be studied in relation to self-perceived health
  • the possibility of misclassification of women into the wrong social class will be discussed. Bias when occupational class schemes, developed with reference to the structure of male employment, are applied for women will be highlighted
  • the imbalance between the educational level of women and the qualifications required for jobs they occupy will be analysed.

It is hoped that the proposed study will fully improve the description and analysis of social inequalities in health for women. This will provide more valid data to inform action and policies to reduce social inequalities in health. The final results of the study will be presented in August 2003.

Leading Team Member:
Piroska Östlin, former Secretary to the National Public Health Commission

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