A common assumption is that strengthening the health system will automatically lead to better health for men and women. However, health systems are not neutral: they reflect gender norms, and as such, can reinforce gender inequalities and discrimination. Health system reform has largely paid little attention to how health service integration, human resource policies, information systems and financing affect gender equity and women as well as men. Without such an analysis, health reform can have a negative impact on women’s health and access to services. Moreover, integrating gender equity into health system reform could be a tool to promote gender equality throughout society.
This brief examines the reform of health systems in post-conflict settings through a gender lens, using the World Health Organization’s health system building blocks as a framework. Research into the importance of reconstructing health systems after a crisis or war is relatively new, therefore literature discussing challenges and best practices related to gender equity is weak and the evidence base limited.