Objectives: Gender as a social construct is a recognized health determinant. Because best practice in reporting health technology assessment (HTA) clearly specifies the need to appraise a technology's social impact within the target population, the extent to which gender issues are taken into account in HTA production is of interest, not only in light of equitable practices but also for reasons of effectiveness. The aim of this study is to provide a first assessment of the degree of gender sensitivity shown by HTA agencies around the world today.
Methods: The Web sites of sixty HTA agencies were analyzed. The consideration of gender aspects was specifically looked for in each agency's general mission statement, its priority setting process, and its methodological approach. Additionally, specific gender-oriented initiatives not belonging to any of the aforementioned categories were identified.
Results: Of the sixty agencies, less than half mention a commitment to addressing the social implication of health technologies. Only fifteen institutions make information on their priority setting principles available on their Web sites and gender was an issue in two of those cases. Data on methodology were obtainable online from18 agencies, two of which mentioned gender issues explicitly. Finally, gender-oriented initiatives were identified by thirteen agencies.
Conclusions: A gender-sensitive approach is apparently rarely adopted in current HTA production. Exceptional practices and relevant tools do exist and could serve as examples to be promoted by international collaborative networks.