During the last decades, sex and gender biases have been identified in various areas of biomedical and public health research, leading to compromised validity of research findings. As a response, methodological requirements were developed but these are rarely translated into research practice. The aim of this study is to provide good practice examples of sex/gender sensitive health research.
We conducted a systematic search of research articles published in JECH between 2006 and 2014. An instrument was constructed to evaluate sex/gender sensitivity in four stages of the research process (background, study design, statistical analysis, discussion).
In total, 37 articles covering diverse topics were included. Thereof, 22 were evaluated as good practice example in at least one stage; two articles achieved highest ratings across all stages. Good examples of the background referred to available knowledge on sex/gender differences and sex/gender informed theoretical frameworks. Related to the study design, good examples calculated sample sizes to be able to detect sex/gender differences, selected sex/gender sensitive outcome/exposure indicators, or chose different cut-off values for male and female participants. Good examples of statistical analyses used interaction terms with sex/gender or different shapes of the estimated relationship for men and women. Examples of good discussions interpreted their findings related to social and biological explanatory models or questioned the statistical methods used to detect sex/gender differences.
The identified good practice examples may inspire researchers to critically reflect on the relevance of sex/gender issues of their studies and help them to translate methodological recommendations of sex/gender sensitivity into research practice.