Research probes health impacts of gendered senior care work

York University Professor Tamara Daly will lead a research program studying the gendered health impacts of performing paid and unpaid care work for seniors in long-term care (LTC) settings.

The professor has been awarded one of nine Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) research chairs in Gender Work and Health. The program, Working Well: Understanding How Gender Influences Working Conditions and Health in Long-Term Care Settings Across Canada TamaraDalyand Internationally, will receive $800,000 in CIHR funding over five years. It will train and mentor the next generation of researchers and to transfer knowledge to decision makers and front-line care workers.

Tamara Daly

“Health care work is unhealthy and at times dangerous work, with the most challenging conditions prevailing in LTC settings. We don’t often talk about gender in LTC settings even though care work is primarily performed by women,” says Daly, a professor at the School of Health Policy & Management in York University’s Faculty of Health.

Approximately 200,000 older adults – also mostly women – live in one of the 2,136 long-term care facilities across the country, Daly cites Statistics Canada, explaining the need for research in the area.

“This program will help to better understand working in and receiving LTC, and to inform policymakers about resident’s and worker’s health and safety,” says Daly. It is built on her existing research program and will be supported by eight partner organizations collectively representing more than half a million care workers and 27,000 LTC facility beds in Ontario.

According to the 2005 National Survey of the Work and Health of Nurses findings, LTC workers were more likely to report fair or poor health compared with those working in hospitals or the community.

“LTC work is increasingly precarious, fast-paced and low paid and that leads to health implications. With more men entering the field and with families, volunteers, students and private companions contributing a great deal of informal care, we need to better understand not only how the work is shared – between men and women, and between staff and informal providers – but also how health and safety for residents and providers are affected,” says Daly.

Comparative studies exploring LTC working conditions among various provinces, as well as Canadian conditions in comparison with those in Germany, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, are proposed as part of the five-year plan.

Graduate trainees will have opportunities to engage in domestic and international primary research, systematic reviews, data analysis and the preparation and presentation of papers to academic, policy and practice oriented conferences. They will be mentored in knowledge translation, and have opportunities to work directly with York U’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit.

“We are excited that Professor Daly has been awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Chair in Gender Work and Health,” says Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “Her important research will provide valuable insight to better understand health-care issues affecting long-term care workers and those receiving care in these types of facilities. She will be working with York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit to develop appropriate knowledge translation activities that will help to inform health care policy and professional practice. The award is well-deserved.”