Sex, Gender and Health Research Guide: A Tool for CIHR Applicants

CIHR is a signatory on the Government of Canada's Health Portfolio Sex- and Gender-Based Analysis Policy, as well as the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. Both policies underscore the importance of integrating gender and sex into health research when appropriate, for there is significant evidence to "demonstrate that biological, economic and social differences between women and men contribute to differences in health risks, health services use, health system interaction and health outcomes." Accounting for gender and sex in health research has the potential to make health research more just, more rigorous and more useful. As such, and as indicated in the Grants and Awards Guide, CIHR expects that all research applicants will integrate gender and sex into their research designs when appropriate.

As part of the grant application process, CIHR asks applicants to indicate if sex and/or gender are accounted for in the study and to further elaborate on and justify their responses.


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. Download Sex and Gender Infographic.

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. Download Sex and Gender Infographic.

Sex- and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA) is an approach that systematically examines sex-based (biological) and gender-based (socio-cultural) differences between men, women, boys, girls and gender-diverse people. The purpose of SGBA is to promote rigorous science that is sensitive to sex and gender and therefore has the potential to expand our understanding of health determinants for all people. SGBA is meant to be applied within the context of a diversity framework that considers 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. Applying SGBA brings these considerations into focus and can help formulate health research, policies and programs that are relevant to the diversity of the Canadian population.

SGBA Resources

Below are some guidelines, tools and resources to help researchers and reviewers better account for sex and gender in health research.

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Biomedical Research

Clinical Research

Health Systems and Services Research

Population Health Research

Gender Measurement Instruments

Many gender scales can be used to collect information about gender in primary surveys and research studies. The following list represents a selection of some of the most frequently used scales. It is important to note that gender is not static—it is socially constructed and changes over time. It is important to take a critical approach when studying gender and in deciding how to consider it in a study.

Gender Identity

Gender Roles

Gender Norms

Gender Relations

Additional Examples:

General Resources

External Links



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