JSGS professor awarded $56k for women’s health research

SASKATOON – Alana Cattapan, an assistant professor in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), has been awarded a New Investigator Grant by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) to explore how the concept of “women of childbearing age” influences public health policy and biomedical research.

Along with CIHR’s $18,600 New Investigator Grant in Maternal, Reproductive, Child and Youth Health, Cattapan has been awarded matching amounts by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) and the U of S, for a total of $56,000 over three years.

“This new research will focus on how certain kinds of public health policies and biomedical research protocols think about women as potentially pregnant,” said Cattapan. “Describing women’s bodies in terms of ‘childbearing age’ contributes to the idea that women’s health is primarily reproductive, and doesn’t acknowledge the fact that women are not always fertile or planning on having children.”

She noted recent advice from international public health agencies for pregnant women and “women of childbearing age” to avoid travelling to Zika-affected regions and warning to women in these regions to delay pregnancy for the duration of the outbreak.

And she pointed to an advisory by the American Centres for Disease Control for women having unprotected sex not to consume alcohol at all, in case they are unknowingly pregnant or might soon become pregnant.

Advancement of the concept that women’s role is primarily reproductive can have negative outcomes on their health and autonomy, Cattapan said.

“In terms of biomedical research, the idea that women should be excluded because of their childbearing capacity has resulted in a significant gap in knowledge about women’s health."

Cattapan’s research challenges the assumption that women are the sole contributors to reproduction. Her research will shed light on the importance of other components included in reproduction, such as men, government policy, industry practices and environmental factors.

She said the research will provide policy-makers with more information and different perspectives aimed toward constructing more autonomous roles for women and their health, beyond fetal health and reproductive capacity.

“The exploration of this topic offers a new perspective on gender and public engagement in the health research field,” said Kathleen McNutt, executive director of JSGS. “Her research could have lasting effects on public health in terms of women’s participation in health policy-making.”

As a feminist researcher, Cattapan explores the involvement of women in public health decision-making and roles women play in health research. Her past research addresses regulation of reproductive technologies, and public engagement in health and medical research.






For more information, contact:

Erica Schindel, Communications and Marketing Specialist
Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
University of Saskatchewan
306-966-2663 | erica.schindel@usask.ca

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