Voices Research Project

Women's perceptions of the determinants of health

The Voices Research Project was particularly interested in hearing the voices of women who have been ignored and/or marginalized in past health research. The results of this study suggest that aside from the obvious biological indicators and lifestyle behaviors that influence the health of individual women, there are myriad social circumstances that leave some women more vulnerable to illness and disease than others. The theme of inequality and oppression permeated much of the women's discussion of the determinants of their health.

For many women, racial discrimination, ageism, anglocentrism and homophobia represented major determinants of their overall health and well-being. For others, poverty led to a lack of social status as well as inadequate housing and education, or created barriers to accessing health care services and support networks.

The study highlighted several findings:


  • Encourage practitioners to partner with community organizations to increase awareness of the social and cultural conditions of women’s lives which impact their health.

  • Improve cultural representation among health care providers to enhance understanding and empathy and to avoid cultural bias and assumptions.

  • Ensure that women benefit from the research process, health policy researchers need to work on building community partnerships with diverse groups of women.

  • Ensure full and active involvement of all participating women, beginning in the initial stages of research design and remain conscientious of diverse experiences throughout the research process.

It is the conclusion of the Voices Project that participatory health research by women, for women, represents an important medium for informing the development of health care policy. It is only in listening to and hearing the voices of women that we can truly begin to understand the ways in which social determinants impact on their health and well-being. We believe that the voices of the women who participated in this project can uniquely contribute to the direction of Canada's health policies.

Products and publications


Women's Perceptions of the determinants of Health and Well-Being - final report [PDF - 224 kB] (1998)