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Looking twice at the gender equity index for public health impact

José Fernández-Sáez126*, Maria Teresa Ruiz-Cantero12, Marta Guijarro-Garví3, Mercedes Carrasco-Portiño124, Victoria Roca-Pérez5, Elisa Chilet-Rosell1 and Carlos Álvarez-Dardet12

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health Research Group, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain

2 CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Catalonia, Spain

3 Department of Economics, University of Cantabria, Cantabria, Spain

4 Department of Obstetrics and Puericulture, Faculty of Medicine, University of Concepcion, Concepcion, Chile

5 Department of Philosophy of Law and Private International Law, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain

6 Grupo de Investigación de Salud Pública. Universidad de Alicante, Edificio Ciencias Sociales, Crta. San Vicente-Alicante s/n. Campus San Vicente del Raspeig. Apartado, Alicante Postal 99. 03080, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:659  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-659

Published: 16 July 2013



It has been shown that gender equity has a positive impact on the everyday activities of people (decision making, income allocation, application and observance of norms/rules) which affect their health. Gender equity is also a crucial determinant of health inequalities at national level; thus, monitoring is important for surveillance of women’s and men’s health as well as for future health policy initiatives. The Gender Equity Index (GEI) was designed to show inequity solely towards women. Given that the value under scrutiny is equity, in this paper a modified version of the GEI is proposed, the MGEI, which highlights the inequities affecting both sexes.


Rather than calculating gender gaps by means of a quotient of proportions, gaps in the MGEI are expressed in absolute terms (differences in proportions). The Spearman’s rank coefficient, calculated from country rankings obtained according to both indexes, was used to evaluate the level of concordance between both classifications. To compare the degree of sensitivity and obtain the inequity by the two methods, the variation coefficient of the GEI and MGEI values was calculated.


Country rankings according to GEI and MGEI values showed a high correlation (rank coef. = 0.95). The MGEI presented greater dispersion (43.8%) than the GEI (19.27%). Inequity towards men was identified in the education gap (rank coef. = 0.36) when using the MGEI. According to this method, many countries shared the same absolute value for education but with opposite signs, for example Azerbaijan (−0.022) and Belgium (0.022), reflecting inequity towards women and men, respectively. This also occurred in the empowerment gap with the technical and professional job component (Brunei:-0.120 vs. Australia, Canada Iceland and the U.S.A.: 0.120).


The MGEI identifies and highlights the different areas of inequities between gender groups. It thus overcomes the shortcomings of the GEI related to the aim for which this latter was created, namely measuring gender equity, and is therefore of great use to policy makers who wish to understand and monitor the results of specific equity policies and to determine the length of time for which these policies should be maintained in order to correct long-standing structural discrimination against women.

Gender equity; Index; Education; Empowerment; Income