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Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social Policies 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0521682800
ISBN-10: 0521682800
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Editorial Reviews


"There is a growing body of international research on gender and health research, but much of it concerns either women or men, and focuses on either social or biological factors in explanation. By overcoming these limitations, Chloe Bird and Patricia Rieker's 'constrained choice' approach is an excellent and timely framework for the analysis of the complex relationship between gender and health. Clearly written and supported by a wealth of research evidence, the book will be of great interest to both researchers and policy makers." - Ellen Annandale, University of Leicester

"What a valuable book! Bird and Rieker, two of the nation's premier thinkers on health policy, have sifted through the mountains of research on gender and health, and separated the stereotypic from the statistically relevant. As America finally confronts its health care crisis, this will be the primer for policymakers, and a significant contribution to the national conversation." - Michael Kimmel, SUNY Stony Brook

"Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social Policies is an engaging, timely, and useful book about men's and women's health. In it, Bird and Rieker summarize the issues, their histories and relevant findings. They critique differing views and offer a synthesis useful to researchers, clinicians, policy makers and individuals making decisions about their own lives. Gender and Health avoids the polemical style of feminism and the aseptic style of medicine. It treats gender and health as a flesh-and-blood issue of real people in a real world defined by physical environments, social roles and strata, culture, and history, all interacting with human biology." - John Mirowsky, University of Texas at Austin

"Bird and Rieker have provided an important and timely contribution to understanding the differences in the health of men and women. The authors have synthesized a complex body of interdisciplinary evidence and provided a novel framework of "constrained choice" to explain how gender is related to health. Their writing is accessible both to seasoned researchers and to general readers." - Carol Weisman, Pennsylvania State University

"Bird and Rieker make explicit the assumptions on which they build their model of constrained choice.... This formulated analysis has a major implication for health policy: if social policy, community, work, and family constraints on individuals' choices about health-related matters were reduced, especially with respect to their sex biases, then sex-based disparities in health might diminish. The analysis likewise has a major implication for clinical practice: physicians should not assume that responsibility for a patient's current health status is reducible simply to that patient's choices, as if those choices were free of potent social constraints." - JAMA

"Gender and Health does not provide answers to the questions posed. Rather, the authors challenge their readers to adopt a broader perspective in their approach to the formulation and evaluation of social policy, the conduct of research, and the provision of patient care through an integrated consideration of the biological and social dimensions of gender." - New England Journal of Medicine

"This book is essential for students and researchers of public policy. It is also invaluable to health psychologists.... [It] increases our understanding of how social policies affect individuals' choices, which is necessary in understanding the factors that affect the ease with which one can choose health. At the same time, this book also encourages individuals to be more cognizant of how decisions, such as whether to take a new job or move, are influenced by the complex interactions between their gender, their surrounding families, communities, workplaces, and societies." - Psychology of Women Quarterly

"This volume is clearly written, well organized, and well referenced.... Libraries will find this to be a useful acquisition in support of health sciences/public health, gender studies, or public policy programs.... Recommended." - Choice

"Gender and Health is an ambitious book with multiple aims and multiple intended audiences.... The authors' attention to macrolevel influences on health outcomes-in the form of social policies, local social and built environments, and workplace conditions-is important and salutary." - Contemporary Sociology

"This book has a number of strengths. The authors present an up-to-date examination of current research and use a zoom-in, zoom-out approach, going from individuals to international policies (and back again). They offer an innovative conceptual framework rooted in sociological theories that include rational choice and life course perspectives. Virtually no stone is left unturned in their examination of the gender paradox; the coverage is encyclopedic.... this book is a must-read for policy analysts, public health planners, researchers from diverse fields, and anyone interested in gender and health disparities." - Social Service Review

"...the text represents a useful addition to the field, particularly in relation to the careful attention paid to the real choices open to men and women, and the constraints placed on these by gender roles, families, work and environmental factors, and policy. Bird and Rieker offer key insights into the reasons why simple health promotion messages often fail, and as such this text is essential reading for policy makers as well as academics interested in explanations of gender inequalities in health. The book would also be of value for those teaching gender and health and for students taking courses relating to wider health equalities and public health policy." - Sex Roles

"Bird and Rieker move us beyond the stereotypes about men and women's bodies and minds. They argue that examining the ways in which specific biological differences interact with the daily lives of men and women that are constrained in gender-based ways, can help us to improve both women's and men's lives. They draw upon the basic feminist sociological insight that while biological sex differences between men and women are very small, and men's and women's bodies are far more similar than they are different, we live in a gendered society, where our daily lives, experiences, responsibilities and opportunities are shaped at every level by gender, whether consciously or not." - Huffington Post

"...the synthesis of knowledge presented in this book, coming from diverse fields, is quite refreshing, and it certainly makes a significant attempt to replace narrow views. The volume is clearly written, well organized, and supported by a wealth of research evidence. The book provides an important and timely contribution to the understanding of some of the differences in health of men and women. Researchers, policy makers, and individuals who want to understand the ways in which differences in women's and men's social lives and physiology contribute to the differences in their health will benefit from this book." - Gender & Society

"All in all this book provides a new and important look into the issue of gender differences in health and provides the psychologist with many new levels of analysis and questions to test." - Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

"The book is a great resource for students and professionals seeking to understand the interrelations between policy and practice at the macro, mezzo, and micro levels, following an ecological perspective.... It integrates the core areas of social work when analyzing gender and health, and the reader walks away with a well-rounded idea of the interactions between multiple levels of policy and practice." - The New Social Worker Online

"This book is clearly written, giving depth and meaning to the complexity of gender differences in health while acknowledging diversity among women and men. The key argument - that gender differences in health can best be explained through the coordinated study of social and biological factors and that social constraints affect life choices and individuals' susceptibility to chronic conditions - seems eminently reasonable and sensible.... I would... defy anyone to come away from reading this important volume thinking that gender does not matter in the dialogue about health and its determinants." - Health Sociology Review

"One of the strengths of this book lies in its comprehensive overview of the state of research on gender differences in health. By providing interesting evidence for variations in gender differences in health across different organizational contexts, the reader is invited to grapple with these issues too. The book is therefore ideal for graduate students and makes a useful reference for those who teach on gender differences in health.... [T]he authors are to be commended for a book that is accessible, interesting and timely. This book is likely to become an important reference for researchers seeking to unravel the paradox in gender differences in health." - Canadian Journal of Sociology

"Both authors have feet planted firmly in the realms of sociology and policy, and it is perhaps this dual perspective which lends the book a refreshing sense of urgency. They conclude with a list of specific policy recommendations for medical and scientific communities, federal and local policy makers, employers, families, and individuals. The reader is left with an awareness of the enormous amount of work to be done in analyzing how social and biological factors shape health, while also convinced of the importance of this task." - Sociological Inquiry

"In their book Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social Policies, Chloe Bird and Patricia Rieker have used an interdisciplinary approach to understand this complex issue.... The authors should be applauded for their collective attempt to further the dialogue among biomedical researchers and social scientists." - PsycCRITIQUES

"...Gender and Health provides excellent reviews of relevant research literature published over the last 20 years on gender and health. It provides a valuable conceptual model of the ways in which 'constrained choices' at the three levels of national social policies, the community and neighbourhood, and work and family life differently affect men's and women's health." - International Journal of Men's Health

" the book reveals some hidden corners of practical value, I recommend this well referenced, concise, authentic, readable, informative, and thought provoking book, not only to researchers and policy makers but also to public health practitioners worldwide." - Public Health

"Their presentation of the literature is unbiased, and each chapter is summarized and flows, providing the reader with a 'storylike' presentation that is neither dull nor boring. One does not get caught up in the tangled web of research statistics that is often found in reviews. Researchers may use this new model to explain gender disparities in health better.... Bird and Rieker's work was a delight to read and is highly recommended for students, educators, clinicians, and policy makers." - Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work

"Bird and Rieker's publication is a timely, modest step towards regaining a sense of proportion between an individual behavioural focus and a focus on social, systemic, and structural determinants of health and well-being." - Global Health Promotion

Book Description

Gender and Health is the first book to examine how men's and women's lives and their physiology contribute to differences in their health. In a thoughtful synthesis of diverse literatures, the authors demonstrate that modern societies' health problems ultimately involve a combination of policies, personal behavior, and choice

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (January 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521682800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521682800
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chloe E. Bird, PhD, is a Senior Sociologist at RAND and Professor of Policy Analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her research focuses on women's health and gender differences in health and health care. She is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Women's Health Issues and a frequent contributor to the Ms. Magazine blog and the RAND blog.

In her book, Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choice and Social Policies, she and coauthor Patricia Rieker integrate social and biological models to improve understanding of how differences in men's and women's lives contribute to differences in their health. This work expands the study of health and health disparities by shedding light on the how decisions beyond the level of the individual shape men's and women's opportunities to purse a healthy life.

She lives and works in Santa Monica with her husband Allen Fremont and their two sons.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shane C. Rock on June 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Gender and Health" is both a vital reference and a good read. The book is well-written, understandable for the lay person and expert alike, and indispensable to any health policy discussion, The authors argue persuasively that gender differences in health can only be explained through an interdisciplinary study of both social and biological factors. They focus on gender-specific social constraints which affect life choices which contribute to differences in disease processes in men and women. The book's explanations and arguments are well-organized and clearly presented. Well-crafted tables and figures add vital information to the narrative.

This book will soon become required reading for researchers, policymakers, and others interested in understanding men's and women's health.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Ruiz on May 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
For years I have searched for an excellent book on Gender & Health. Bird & Rieker do an amazing job of analyzing the current literature & setting a framework for future studies. The book is well-written and innovative, a must-read for researchers and students interested in this topic. Professionals from multiple disciplines (demography, sociology, gerontology, health policy, public health, psychology) would benefit greatly from reading this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K. Hollerbach on December 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
It's well written and easy to read.

It spells out that the wrong questions are being asked in this area - or maybe not the wrong questions, but additional questions need to be asked. What answers you get and therefore what models you develop about the world are clearly related to what questions you think to ask.

It's well referenced - something I always appreciate!

It moved me along a little bit in my personal point of view: As I prioritize health very highly and am quite privileged in terms of education, where/how I get to even choose to live, etc., I tend to lean towards thinking in terms of emphasizing individual choices and responsibility more so than national, community, etc. policy (though I'm certainly a proponent of governmental nudges in the right direction - seatbelts, no-smoking areas, etc.). This reminds me of how many constraints there really are, particularly in those areas where people just don't have as many options.

I really like the directions of research that the authors suggest - and that they call a spade a spade: for example, in terms of calling out the fact that, even as they vocally support interdisciplinary research, most academic institutions don't yet have true, systemic support for interdisciplinary research.

Not knowing as much about sociology research, it was very instructive for me to learn about how questions are formulated from that perspective.
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