The CIHR Institute of Gender and Health
Listening Tour: What We Heard Report

The CIHR Institute of Gender and Health Listening Tour: What We Heard Report

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In 2023, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's (CIHR) Institute of Gender and Health (IGH) embarked on a national Listening Tour to co-create our new Research Priority Plan for 2024-2029.

Keeping with IGH's long history of engaging the health research community in our strategy development, IGH co-leaders Elder Sheila Nyman and Scientific Director Dr. Angela Kaida travelled across Canada seeking insights to inform our future directions and research investment priorities.

We asked:

  • How can we best foster research excellence regarding the influence of sex and gender on health?
  • What is your vision for achieving health equity for women and girls, boys and men, and gender-diverse people?
  • What sex and gender science priorities do you think should be centered in IGH's next Research Priority Plan?
  • How can we better support and develop trainee and early career researcher capacity in health research?
  • How can we better support community-led and community-engaged health research?

In summary, we heard broad support for:

  • Progressing intersectional, community-engaged sex, gender, and health research focused on health equity, particularly among three understudied and underfunded populations experiencing systemic health inequities;
  • Influencing systemic change through continued attention to sex and gender integration across all health research, with an emphasis on best practice guidance and accountability for impact; and
  • Advancing sex and gender science through a focus on research capacity building, moving beyond uncovering differences to examining sex and/or gender-related mechanisms and processes that influence health, and development and advancement of sex and gender science research methods.

What We Heard: Highlights

    Health equity

    The IGH community values the creation of a health equity-oriented strategy with specific areas of focus, to incentivize and support health researchers to pursue understudied sex, gender and health research topics, and to focus on underfunded populations who face significant and systemic health disparities.

    Three widely-supported areas of focus for IGH's next Research Priority Plan:

    1. 2S/LGBTQI+ healthFootnote 1
    2. Women's healthFootnote 2
    3. Race, racism, gender and health, with emphasis on Indigenous and Black peoples' health

    Listening Tour attendees emphasized that across all areas of focus, intersectional, community-engaged research approaches that go beyond the sex and gender binary will have the highest impact. There is also recognition that sex (male, female, intersex) and gender diversity (men and boys, women and girls, and gender-diverse people) exists within all areas of focus, and that many additional populations are included from an intersectional perspective.

    Sex and gender science: Overview

    Listening Tour attendees emphasized that when science integrates sex and gender, it is not only more inclusive, but more rigorous. Research that considers sex and gender has increased impact, can lead to major scientific breakthroughs, and is a defining feature of research excellence.

    Our community is proud of IGH-led policy changes at CIHR, which have significantly progressed sex and gender integration in health research. However, we also heard that:

    1. More supports are needed to ensure that sex and gender integration becomes the standard, and a well-supported norm in health research; and that
    2. IGH should continue playing a lead role in growing the field of sex and gender science as a distinct scholarly discipline.
    Sex and gender science: Integration of sex and gender+ into health research
    Goal How to achieve it
    Cement IGH's role and responsibility as a global centre of expertise for the integration of sex and gender+ across all health research.Footnote 3 Provide centralized methodological guidance and best practice standards, with a focus on terminology, sex and gender measurement, data collection and analysis, and developing knowledge mobilization outputs including clinical practice guidelines, policies, and programs.
    Drive culture change across the research ecosystem to overcome persistent barriers to the integration of sex and gender+ considerations in health research.

    Support peer researchers and the CIHR peer review process to better understand, advance and evaluate high-quality sex and gender integration in health sciences.

    Influence sex and gender integration at other points in the research ecosystem, including ethics review and the collection of sex and gender information in administrative datasets.

    Train, resource and inspire the health research community, with a focus on the next generation of sex and gender scientists.

    Modernize the online sex and gender training modules, and add a new module for community research partners.

    Influence academic health science curricula to integrate sex and gender considerations.

    Support equity-deserving researchers and clinician scientists.

    Convene the health research community to promote interdisciplinary and community-engaged research teams.

    Bring back the IGH Summer Institute.

    Sex and gender science: Capacity-bridging

    Trainee and ECR perspectives

    • Provide funding opportunities for trainees and early career researchers (ECRs), especially those underrepresented in health research professions (2S/LGBTQI+, Indigenous, Black and racialized people). This focus also acknowledges that trainees and ECRs from equity-deserving communities often lead research by, with and for equity-deserving communities.
    • Build trainee mentorship and ECR leadership into funding opportunities such as team grants.
    • Provide travel awards for trainee participation and research presentation at sex and gender science conferences.
    • Offer trainee and ECR-specific resources and provide in-house IGH expertise for questions, guidance and support on integrating sex and gender considerations into research proposals.
    • Support mid-career researchers in sex and gender science to inspire career pathways for ECRs.

    Capacity-bridging best practices, according to trainees and ECRs

    Trainee and ECR attendees identified existing best practices that are addressing their capacity-bridging needs related to mentorship, direct funding and training opportunities.

    Community partner perspectives

    • Connect researchers to training in trauma-informed, cultural safety and community compensation best practices to support their capacity to more safely engage community partners facing forms of sexual and gender+ inequity in their research.
    • Involve community partners in updating IGH training modules and consider developing a new training module for community partners and people with lived and living experiences who are involved in research projects.
    Sex and gender science: Advance sex and gender science and the state of the field
    Goal How to achieve it
    Support the development of more advanced sex and gender science methods. Provide funding opportunities dedicated to new and improved methods, such as quantitative measures of intersectionality, working with small sample sizes or measures of sex and gender diversity.
    Invest in research that moves beyond uncovering sex and gender differences and toward a deeper understanding of why these differences exist. Offer funding opportunities to discover sex and gender-related factors and processes that help understand why we see differences (or similarities) in health experiences. These could examine causal pathways and their significance, as well as the interactions between sex and gender, structures causing marginalization and/or strengths-based protective factors.
    Drive change by promoting research for impact.

    Focus on implementation science and community-engaged knowledge mobilization.

    Offer impact awards in sex and gender research, and explore sex and gender accountability mechanisms in end-of-grant reporting.

    Progress community-engaged research, and broaden the assessment of research impact beyond academic journal publishing (for example, to value the outputs of Indigenous and community-led research).

    Sex and gender science: Community-engaged research

    How to progress community-engaged research as a new standard of research excellence and rigour

    Community partner perspectives

    • Provide funding for multi-year research initiatives that can be led or co-led by community partners, phased in a way that progresses activities from community-led research design to knowledge mobilization and implementation.
    • Work in collaborative research models with community partners, valuing lived and living experiences and community relationships, as well as expertise gained from providing frontline health and social service delivery to people who experience health inequities based on sex and gender diversity.
    • Include community fellowships in funding opportunities, and ensure systemic supports are in place to resource and fund community involvement in research.
    • Consider funding opportunities that embed researchers into community organizations for relationship-building, and to open new career progression pathways in health research.
    • Support mechanisms for greater relationship development between academic and clinical researchers with community partners.
    • Facilitate community data stewardship and open data access, with policies against extractive research.
    Principles and values to ground our work
    1. Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, and valuing Indigenous ways of knowing
    2. Going beyond the sex and gender binary

    3. Embracing intersectionality
    4. Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

    5. Life course and whole-of-person approaches
    6. Focusing on the least served yields the highest results

    7. Advocacy, research safety and increasing public trust of health research
    Where do we go from here?

    In spring 2024, IGH will launch a new 2024-2029 Research Priority Plan to guide our work together, informed by what we heard during the Listening Tour: your health equity and research priorities, reflections on the state of the sex and gender science field and how to advance it, and your suggested strategies to help us reach our mutual goals.

    What is a Research Priority Plan? In short, it's like a Strategic Plan but more action-oriented. Expect to see the IGH community's big-picture visions aligned to the CIHR Strategic Plan 2021-2031: A Vision for a Healthier Future, and accompanied by defined tactics to help us achieve them, and stay accountable to you.

    Let's keep visioning together: Our community is our strength! The IGH team extends a heartfelt thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in and contribute to the Listening Tour. Please stay in touch to keep up with IGH funding opportunities, events and initiatives, and to celebrate research in action.

    X/Twitter: @CIHRIGH
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    Visit the IGH website

    The Institute of Gender and Health respectfully acknowledges that we are located on the unceded, ancestral and traditional territory of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We're grateful for the opportunity to host our Listening Tour across many Indigenous territories from coast to coast on Turtle Island.

Appendix A: Overview of Listening Tour events

The Listening Tour convened 511 people at 19 events!

We held focus groups and audience-specific townhalls for communities with shared experiences, as well as open, public townhalls and networking events that encouraged peer learning and relationship-building across the research ecosystem.

Using multiple different event formats allowed us to respond to local contexts and diversify conversations, while maximizing accessibility through online and in-person participation and through bilingual presentations in English and French.

    The Listening Tour: By the numbers
    • 13 townhalls across 5 cities: Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montréal
    • 1 regional townhall with Atlantic Canada
    • 2 national townhalls for early career researchers and trainees, featuring an "Ask a Sex and Gender Science Specialist" mentorship opportunity
    • 3 virtual focus groups with the Sex and Gender Science Chairs, Sex and Gender Champions and the IGH Trainee Network
    • 1 online survey

    Additionally, we met with our IGH Institute Advisory Board members, IGH-funded Health Research Training Platform leads, and held several 1:1 meetings with senior university administrators, researchers, Indigenous leaders and community partners across the country.

    Expanding our community

    Our outreach efforts intentionally expanded the IGH research community by calling in and inviting community partners and people with lived and living experiences—many of whom are often excluded from priority-setting initiatives in health research.

    Many shared that this was the first time they were invited to and involved in a CIHR Institute-led event, and appreciated IGH's efforts to hold specific townhalls for community partners. Beyond co-creation of our Research Priority Plan, this was important step for IGH to develop community relationships, demonstrate the way we value community expertise, and to build trust in IGH-supported health research.

    To be added to our community contact list for future events, please e-mail

    Event satisfaction

    At the end of each event, we distributed an evaluation survey for ongoing learning and improvement. 92% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the townhalls met their expectations.

Appendix B: A snapshot of the IGH research community at the Listening Tour

Using our townhall registration data as a proxy indicator; categories are not mutually exclusive.

    • 80% academic. Of those, 29% were researchers, 29% trainees, 24% ECRs, 3% presidents and deans, 14% identified as a different academic role
    • 12% community partners
    • 4% hospital/ clinic
    • 4% charity/ foundations
    • 3% government
    • 2% self-employed/ consultant
    • 1% private sector
    • 1% individual community member
    Health Research Pillars
    • 21% Pillar 1: Biomedical
    • 29% Pillar 2: Clinical
    • 51% Pillar 3: Health services
    • 60% Pillar 4: Social, cultural, environmental and population health

    Learn more: What is health research?

    Participant Demographics
    • 27% identify as a racialized person
    • 24% 2S/LGBTQI+
    • 17% francophone
    • 12% African, Caribbean and/or Black
    • 12% people with disabilities
    • 8% youth (15-24)
    • 4% older adult (65+)
    • 4% Indigenous
    • 3% living in a rural, remote or Northern location
    • 32% none of the above
    • 9% prefer not to say

    Many people selected multiple, signalling expansive intersectional identities in our community.

    Gender Identities
    • 76% women
    • 19% men
    • 6% gender non-binary, agender, genderqueer or similar
    • 0.1% Two-Spirit
    • 5% prefer not to answer
    • 5% have experience living as a transgender person (This question was asked separately from gender identity)
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