Research Initiatives

PHS stimulates research initiatives in the following areas. Some initiatives represent new directions for ongoing collaborations while others are in every sense new. Contact us for more information about any of the initiatives or to be connected with the investigators.

Blue-collar Work and Women's Health: A Systematic Review of the Evidence from 1990 to 2015

Despite the implications of gender and sex differences for health risks associated with blue-collar work, adverse health outcomes among blue-collar workers has been most frequently studied among men.

The present study provides a "state-of-the-field" systematic review of the empiric evidence published on blue-collar women's health. We systematically reviewed literature related to the health of blue-collar women published between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 2015. We limited our review to peer-reviewed studies published in the English language on the health or health behaviors of women who were presently working or had previously worked in a blue-collar job. Studies were eligible for inclusion regardless of the number, age, or geographic region of blue-collar women in the study sample. We retained 177 studies that considered a wide range of health outcomes in study populations from 40 different countries.

Overall, these studies suggested inferior health among female blue-collar workers as compared with either blue-collar males or other women. However, we noted several methodological limitations in addition to heterogeneity in study context and design, which inhibited comparison of results across publications. Methodological limitations of the extant literature, alongside the rapidly changing nature of women in the workplace, motivate further study on the health of blue-collar women. Efforts to identify specific mechanisms by which blue-collar work predisposes women to adverse health may be particularly valuable in informing future workplace-based and policy-level interventions. Read the published article here.

Impact of Work on Women’s Health

Because of rapid introduction of women into the U.S. workplace since the 1960’s, there is far less known about the health impacts of work on women than men. The Women’s Health Initiative is an enormous cohort of women, initially recruited to study the impact of hormones on menopause and subsequent health-- with over 100,000 still alive and under regular observation. Among the many ongoing studies at Stanford and elsewhere, a local team is using the work histories to explore this important life stage for women.

Using Existing Data to Investigate Relationships Between Social Norms and Adolescent Health Behaviors and Outcomes

This research explores associations between social/gender norms and health behaviors and outcomes along the life-course and across the global, using existing data. Use of existing data is likely to produce actionable information relatively more rapidly than an open-ended, exploratory prospective research approach, which may yield extremely valuable information but requires a much longer period of time and greater financial investment.

This body of work will contribute to five papers submitted for consideration to The Lanceton the Next Generation of Gender Equality: Paper 1 (Unlocking human potential through shaping gender norms), Paper 2 (Unlocking gender norm data), Paper 3 (Unlocking gender norm change to achieve gender equality and health and development impact at scale), Paper 4 (Unlocking gender norm change in health systems to ensure sustainability of gender equality and health and development impact) and Paper 5 (Unlocking global action to promote gender norm change and gender equality and to optimize health and development). Additional manuscripts and policy briefs will also be developed, providing new insights into promising approaches to understanding the impact of and addressing harmful gendered social norms on health behaviors and health outcomes for women, men, boys and girls around the world.

Gender-Related Variables in Health Research

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), both sex (biological characteristics) and gender (sociocultural beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors) “play a role in how health and disease processes differ among individuals.” In January 2016 the NIH required investigators to explain how “relevant biological variables, such as sex, are factored into research designs and analyses for studies in vertebrate animals and humans.” While methods for analyzing sex are increasingly well understood, methods for analyzing gender-related health variables are not. This project seeks to identify and develop gender-related variables for prevention research and patient questionnaires in health research.