March 8, 2023

#EmbracingEquity in Women’s Health Research

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023

For International Women’s Day 2023 #EmbraceEquity, we’re highlighting a few stories from the past year that show some incredible advances in women’s health research as we work towards a more equitable future. 

At the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI), more than 160 women’s health researchers are dedicated to improving health in all ages and all stages of a woman’s life.

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 functions, kidney functions and heart rhythms. Their health is affected by menstrual cycles, perimenopause, menopause, postmenopause 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, and it’s critical we consider that complexity when developing evidence-based care that addresses women’s unique health needs. Research in women’s health also has a ripple effect; it leads to not only healthier women but also healthier children, healthier families, and — ultimately — healthier communities.

Fortunately, tremendous progress in women’s health research is happening right here in our community! 

Read the stories about incredible women working in women’s health research below.

Emma Bedard

Graduate student Emma Bedard, supervised by Nese Yuksel, is taking steps toward better understanding decision-making processes when women choose various contraception methods. Only five per cent of women use long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods like IUDs or implants. 

Read the full article about Bedard and her work with LARCs >>

Margie Davenport and Tara-Leigh McHugh

Margie Davenport and Tara-Leigh McHugh, researchers in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation are working on improving women’s knowledge of appropriate physical activity during pregnancy. Pregnancy is classified as an injury by most sports organizations. Davenport and McHugh want to change that so those female elite athletes can have the same opportunities as male elite athletes. They are also working on resources for those elite female athletes to continue training while pregnant. 

Read the full article about Davenport and McHugh’s work on supporting pregnant athletes >>

Stephanie Montesanti

Stephanie Montesanti, an applied health policy and health systems researcher, is developing a tool that is set to assess the readiness of Alberta’s primary healthcare clinics to offer effective family violence interventions and support to their patients.

Read the full article on Montesanti and her work on family violence interventions >>

Colleen Norris

Colleen Norris, nursing professor, associate dean of research and Cavarzan Chair in Mature Women’s Health Research, asked women during a qualitative study what it felt like to be given a cardiovascular diagnosis by a healthcare professional. They all responded with feelings of shame. Women work their whole lives trying to help others and don’t make time for themselves. Since then, Norris has devoted her research to raising awareness of women’s heart health.  

Read the full article on Norris and her work on the heart of a woman >>

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Donna Vine

Nutritional scientist Donna Vine led a survey of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that shows a need for more clinician and patient education and awareness of how to treat the condition. PCOS is the most common hormone disorder in adolescent girls and women globally, affecting about one in 10 across their lifespan, and is a leading cause of menstrual dysfunction and infertility.

Read more about Vine’s research on PCOS and the challenge she is facing to raise awareness about the condition >>