Charting a Course for Women’s Heart Health in Canada

June 24, 2017

In 2016, the first Canadian Women’s Heart Health Summit marked the only national gathering focused on women’s heart health in over 15 years. Now, as planning for the 2018 Summit moves into full swing, the organizers have published a summary of the results from the 2016 event in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

“The first Summit served as a catalyst to bring leading health care providers, researchers, policy people and women who have lived with heart disease together in one place,” said Michele Turek, MD, a cardiologist at the Ottawa Heart Institute and the Ottawa Hospital and Summit co-chair along with Thais Coutinho, MD, Chief of Prevention and Rehabilitation at the Heart Institute.

The Summit, a key initiative of the Heart Institute’s Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre (CWHHC), is hosted in partnership with Heart & Stroke. The 2016 event laid the groundwork for progress on several fronts, with recommendations in four areas.

Women’s Heart Health Alliance

Various groups and centres around the country provide care tailored to women with heart disease and conduct related research, but there is no national platform to connect and foster collaboration among these disparate groups.

“The Alliance will be a formal network of researchers, health care providers and interest groups and that will support collaborations in research and clinical care,” Dr. Turek said. “An initial planning meeting took place earlier this spring.”

Policy and Advocacy

“Events like the Summit help to focus stakeholders to articulate the issues that need to be addressed at the policy level,” she continued. “Consensus statements regarding prevention, treatment and public awareness campaigns, particularly for at-risk audiences are among the priorities. Heart & Stroke will be a key partner for raising public awareness.”

Transforming Clinical Practice

“The burden of disease in women is quite variable and spans their entire lives with unique phases along the way. This is the theme of the 2018 Summit,” said Dr. Turek. “We want to look at how younger women integrate heart healthy practices into their lives, at the issues older women face during menopause and at the increased burden of diseases such as heart failure and atrial fibrillation that elderly women carry.”

Screening tools and new evidence-based models of care specific to women as well as a mechanism for assessing gaps and needs were identified by stakeholders.

“We also want to raise awareness among practitioners, she explained. “The CWHHC has done a national survey that will be coming out soon in the Journal of Women’s Health, and we are looking at ways we can raise awareness across the country. A lot of good ideas were generated at the Summit.”

Advancing Research

Summit participants saw the expansion of research into prevention, diagnosis and treatment across life stages and the translation of results into practice as essential areas for progress. They also indicated that funders need to prioritize such research and that persistent sex and gender gaps in research studies need to be addressed.

Looking forward to the next Summit, set for April 5-6, 2018, Dr. Turek emphasized the intention to build on the enthusiasm and knowledge garnered from the 2016 Summit.

“We have a strong cohort of attendees who will be interested in attending next year’s summit,” she said. “We are specifically targeting issues such as where we are in terms of primary prevention in Canada, diseases specific to women and the effects of hormones in general and those related to pregnancy. We already have several exciting speakers lined up and will be releasing more on that in the coming weeks and months.”