Lessons From Zika Policies to Improve Gender Equity

Document Type : Perspective


1 Centre for Ethical, Social and Cultural Risk, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Canada

2 Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada

3 Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA), McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada

4 Global South Solutions, Arlington, USA



Gender equity is easily supported in theory but harder to pursue in practice. In this article, the case of Zika travel policies is used to illustrate some glaring gaps related to gender, for both men and women, at both international and national levels. Zika travel policies have not considered new evidence on biological or social determinants of health, putting babies at risk of exposure. The authors suggest best practices at the international level, such as developing pre-organized gender committees to provide actionable and swift advice for international infectious disease policies; at the national level, such as promoting holistic policies addressing mosquito control and sex and gender considerations, including access to reproductive health services; and at the local level, such as education on local infectious diseases. These deliberations are especially important with emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), as little may be known about them. New knowledge needs to be translated in a timely fashion in order to shape effective and equitable policies.


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