Conferences & Symposia

Who Decides? Gender, Medicine, and the Public’s Health

Each year, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University hosts a conference that explores the role of gender in a significant aspect of the human experience. “Who Decides? Gender, Medicine, and the Public’s Health” was the conference in 2014.

At the conference we explored questions of who decides about health-care provision, research funding, and policy making. Gender, culture, economics, politics, and power all affect health-care decisions by individuals and communities in the United States and around the world. We brought together panels of physicians, policymakers, journalists, artists, and academics to discuss the gender dynamics involved in differing definitions of health and disease, the choices made in prioritizing research, and the gaps and opportunities in health policy and access to care as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The event was free, open to the public, and webcast live.  

Schedule

THURSDAY, April 10

Playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler opened the conference on Thursday evening. She gave a presentation based on her book In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection (2013), which included readings and a Q&A session moderated by Diane Paulus, artistic director of the American Repertory Theater. 

7:30 PM

Presentation and Q&A

FRIDAY, April 11

The daylong program consisted of three panels of experts exploring major themes and their interplay with gender. The first examined, largely through a social-science lens, the role of gender in conceptions of health and disease in different societies, in determining who is responsible for health care through both formal and informal roles, and in developing understandings of risk factors and resilience. The second considered gender’s role in driving commercial and public research in particular diseases, the politics of health campaigns, the formulation and analysis of clinical trials, and the place of the market and private funding in addressing diseases that affect women and men differently. The third panel discussed gendered issues of health care access and policy, including the Affordable Care Act and questions of insurance and coverage. 

8:30 AM

Registration Opens

 

9:30 AM

Welcoming Remarks

  • Lizabeth CohenDean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University
9:45 AM

Overview of the Topic

  • Janet Rich-EdwardsCodirector of the Science Program, Academic Ventures at the Radcliffe Institute; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University
10:00 AM

Panel 1: Defining Health: How Do Health and Disease Get Defined in Societies?

This panel examined, largely through a social-science lens, the role of gender in conceptions of health and disease (including physical and mental health) in different societies, in determining who is responsible for health care through both formal and informal roles, and in developing understandings of risk factors and resilience.

Speakers:

  • Catherine Panter-Brick, Professor of Anthropology, Health, and Global Affairs, Department of Anthropology, Yale University 
  • Jane Ussher, Professor of Women’s Health Psychology, Centre for Health Research, School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney
  • Nate Greenslit, Lecturer on the History of Science, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University
  • Moderator: Arthur Kleinman, Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University; Professor of Medical Anthropology in Global Health and Social Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Victor and William Fung Director of the Asia Center, Harvard University

Q&A with moderator, speakers from other panels, and the audience

 

11:30 AM

Lunch Break and Opportunity to View Exhibit in Byerly Hall, located in Radcliffe Yard

 

1 PM

Panel 2: Research Priorities: The Impact of Gender on the Scope, Funding, and Analysis of Health Research

This panel considered whether gender drives commercial and public research in particular diseases, the politics of health campaigns, the formulation and analysis of clinical trials, and the role of the marketplace and private funding in addressing diseases that affect women and men differently.

Speakers:

  • Peggy Orenstein, Journalist and Author of “Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer,” New York Times, April 25, 2013 
  • C. Noel Bairey Merz, Women’s Guild Chair in Women’s Health, Director of the Women’s Heart Center and the Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, University of California, Los Angeles; Professor of Medicine, Cedars-Sinai 
  • Barron Lerner, Professor of Medicine, Divisions of General Medicine and the Medical Humanities, New York University Langone Medical Center
  • Moderator: Daniel Carpenter, Director of the Social Sciences Program, Academic Ventures at the Radcliffe Institute; Allie S. Freed Professor of Government in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Director of the Center for American Political Studies, Harvard University

Q&A with moderator, speakers from other panels, and the audience

 

2:30 PM

Break

 

2:45 PM

Panel 3: Policy and Access to Care: Gender Gaps and Opportunities in the United States

This panel discussed the implications of the Affordable Care Act for women’s and men’s health, including gendered issues of health care access and policy and questions of insurance and coverage.

Speakers:

  • Ruth Katz, Director, Health, Medicine and Society Program, the Aspen Institute; Former Chief Public Health Counsel (Democratic Staff), Committee on Energy and Commerce, US House of Representatives
  • Julie Rovner, Health Policy Correspondent, National Public Radio
  • Louise Slaughter (D-NY), United States Representative
  • Moderator: Paula Johnson, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Executive Director, Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Heath and Gender Biology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Chief, Division of Women’s Health, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Q&A with moderator, speakers from other panels, and the audience

 

4:15 PM

Closing

  • Janet Rich-Edwards, Codirector of the Science Program, Academic Ventures at the Radcliffe Institute; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University
  • Lizabeth Cohen, Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University
4:30 PM

Reception