Sandra Davidge, PhD
Executive director, Women and Children’s Health Research Institute
Many health issues affect women differently than men—including heart disease, strokes and stress—yet their conditions continue to go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Although the recorded history of clinical trials—research studies that evaluate interventions, like medication—goes back 2,500 years, women have been historically excluded from research because of a commonly held belief they are more complicated than men.
Until very recently, most studies only included men, and researchers extrapolated the results to women, setting standard treatments and therapies based on what works for a man’s body.
But not all bodies are equal and women aren’t just smaller men.
Women’s bodies react differently to drugs due to body weight, fat percentage, liver function, kidney function and heart rhythms. Their health is affected by menstrual cycles, perimenopause, menopause, post-menopause and pregnancy history—whether they’ve been pregnant once, multiple times or never.
All of these factors make it more complex when studying women’s health, so it’s critical we take that complexity into consideration when developing evidence-based care that addresses women’s unique health needs. Fortunately, tremendous progress in women’s health research is happening right here in our community!
The Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI) is Canada’s only research institute—and one of the few in the world—dedicated to women’s, children’s and perinatal health. This is achieved by the institute’s partnership with the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services, funded by the generosity of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation; with the latter supporting women’s health research and the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
This commitment to groundbreaking and vital research has helped establish the Lois Hole Hospital for Women as a national leader in women’s health research and innovation.
Since 2007, the partnership between WCHRI and the Lois Hole Hospital for Women has supported 115 research studies and 110 student projects that focus on women’s health, established four research chairs, and supported the recruitment of 12 world-class researchers to Edmonton.
Over the last decade, members’ research milestones include the following:
- Earlier diagnosis and detection of ovarian cancer.
- Expanded awareness around mature women’s health.
- Greater understanding around maternal age and pregnancy complications.
- New national guidelines for exercise during pregnancy.
- An online screening tool developed for prenatal depression.
From educating women with pelvic floor disorders and connecting them to care, to examining how messages about heart disease affect women’s perceptions about their own health, our members are working to bridge the gap in women’s health research—together through partnership.
To learn more about the research happening in women’s health and how you can show your support, visit wchri.org. This blog was written in partnership with the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.