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Printer-friendly versionAdapted from Changeons de Lunettes: Pour une approche globale et féministe de la santé,from the Réseau québécois d’action pour la santé des femmes
There are many different ways of conceptualizing health. Alternative types of knowledge have always coexisted with ‘legitimate’ or accepted knowledge. Feminists have consistently played a key role in movements challenging the biomedical approach. The comprehensive feminist approach is based on eight pillars and is characterized by its critical stance toward medical and government institutions.
With the new edition of the framework for women’s health, the Réseau québécois d’action pour la santé des femmes (RQASF – Quebec Women’s Health Action Network) offers a critical reading of the current situation and its causes, including the impact of globalization on our health and on our lives in general. It also proposes another vision and another approach to health.
A different perspective
The following are the eight pillars of the comprehensive feminist approach to health:
While biomedicine is a mechanistic concept of the body that divides the individual into a collection of component parts, the comprehensive approach is based on a conception of the human being as a whole (body and mind) interacting with their social and physical environment. Thus, this approach defines health in a holistic* way, as the result of social relationships.
In contrast to a homogenizing vision of health, the comprehensive feminist approach advocates the recognition of the physiological and social differences between the sexes, while at the same time recognizing the differences between individuals, both women and men. This acknowledgement of a person’s many different characteristics — whether they are a man or a woman, rich or poor, gay or straight, living with a disability or not, etc. — is called intersectionality.
According to the comprehensive feminist approach, in order to improve health, the social determinants of health must be taken into account; these are the factors that have the greatest impact on health, such as income, employment and housing.
Contrary to an interventionist, cure-oriented medicine, the comprehensive feminist approach believes a population’s health cannot be improved without prevention and health promotion. Health is a matter of social justice. Consequently, governments must not abdicate their responsibility to enact legislation and regulations in all areas that affect the determinants of health.
Self-care, taking charge of one’s own health, is another of the pillars of the comprehensive feminist approach. This is something that has traditionally been promoted by Quebec feminists, particularly in women’s health centres. Self-care involves