Gender dynamics in digital health: Overcoming blind spots and biases to seize opportunities and responsibilities for transformative health systems
George, A, Morgan, R, Larson, E and LeFevre, A (2018) Gender dynamics in digital health: Overcoming blind spots and biases to seize opportunities and responsibilities for transformative health systems, Journal of Public Health, fdy180, DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdy180
Much remains to ensure that digital health affirms rather than retrenches inequality, including for gender. Drawing from literature and from the SEARCH projects in this supplement, this commentary highlights key gender dynamics in digital health, including blind spots and biases, as well as transformative opportunities and responsibilities. Women face structural and social barriers that inhibit their participation in digital health, but are also frequently positioned as beneficiaries without opportunities to shape such projects to better fit their needs. Furthermore, overlooking gender relations and focussing on women in isolation can reinforce, rather than address, women’s exclusions in digital health, and worsen negative unanticipated consequences. While digital health provides opportunities to transform gender relations, gender is an intimate and deeply structural form of social inequality that rarely changes due to a single initiative or short-term project. Sustained support over time, across health system stakeholders and levels is required to ensure that transformative change with one set of actors is replicated and reinforced elsewhere in the health system. There is no one size prescriptive formula or checklist. Incremental learning and reflection is required to nurture ownership and respond to unanticipated reactions over time when transforming gender and its multiple intersections with inequality.