AHA urges taking steps to improve access, quality, equity in women’s heart health

The advisory, published in Circulation, is a call to action for a cultural shift to identify and remove barriers.

Investing in and improving research, awareness, and equity in women’s cardiovascular health is critical for their health and well-being, according to a new presidential advisory message from the American Heart Association.1

The advisory, published in Circulation, is a call to action to identify and remove barriers to health care access, quality, and equity for women.

“We are losing ground on key indicators of cardiovascular health among women, including blood pressure control, weight management, and diabetes,” Véronique Roger, MD, MPH, FAHA, a senior investigator at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

The advisory also focuses on the need for a cultural shift in how cardiovascular health data are presented to achieve health equity for women.

Comparing data from women with data from men could be harmful to women, Roger said.

For example, women having a heart attack could present more often with atypical symptoms, but she suggested that women are presenting symptoms in the “wrong way.”

The advisory suggests that data specific to women would not label women’s symptoms as “atypical” and could lead to an improved way of diagnostic and therapeutic choices and could help increase equitable care. It includes an actionable roadmap that is divided into 4 key areas to better address women’s cardiovascular health: access and delivery of equitable health care; awareness; epidemiology and prevention; and involvement of communities, health care professionals, and investigators.

“We must urgently address the pervasive gaps in knowledge and health care delivery to reduce gender-based disparities and achieve equity. There is no improving cardiovascular health without achieving health equity,” Nanette Wenger, MD, FAHA, an emeritus professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine, said in the statement.

The advisory listed 6 specific calls to action for health care professionals, investigators, and the public. These are:

  • Create and implement heart health-awareness campaigns that are appropriate and culturally sensitive and emphasize the benefits of education and prevention.
  • Encourage advocacy for legislative interventions and public policy that address social determinants of health, including access to healthy food, high-quality prevent and treatment, and public spaces for physical activity.
  • Engage communities in heart health programs, including students in primary schools.
  • Increase the number of research studies for women, especially individuals from diverse backgrounds and those are younger.
  • Optimize clinical care and prevention through partnerships among cardiology and other specialties, including obstetrics/gynecology and primary care, to improve the recognition of heart disease risk factors and ensure tools to calculate risk specific to women.
  • Survey and monitor disease and risk factor data to better capture information that is crucial to improving prevention and outcomes while delivering more effective health care.

“Making these advances in research and addressing gaps in and barriers to access health care are fundamental to the American Heart Association’s commitment to advancing cardiovascular health for everyone,” Roger said.

This article was initially published by our sister publication Pharmacy Times.

Reference

1. Investment, action urged to improve access, quality and equity in women’s heart health. EurekAlert. News release. May 9, 2022. Accessed May 10, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/951697