“The Gender Care Initiative” is the action toward achieving the goal of evidence-based gender-specific care to improve women’s outcomes. This applies to heart disease and all areas of care and medicine.

“Gender Medicine is”,  according to Dr. Barbara Reigel, Associate Professor of the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, “the practice of medicine that takes into account not only sex – the biophysical characteristics that affect disease manifestation, care and treatment – but also social roles and the distinctions between men and women of a society and sociocultural norms and experiences, expressed through values, psychosocial characteristics and behaviors – all of which have an impact on health and disease.”

Marianne J. Legato, MD, founder of the Partnership for Women’s Health at Columbia University explains: “The sex hormones affect every cell in the body, so there are male and female hearts, male and female livers, male and female blood vessels, male and female brains, male and female skin cells, etc. Gender medicine respects these differences and applies them to the science of gender medicine and to care practices.”

Since its beginning in June 1992, the Women’s Heart Foundation (WHF) has held conferences on gender care but in 2003, it began using the term The Gender Care Initiative and hosted a series of lectures to address the multifaceted and complex health problems that specifically and uniquely affect women with heart disease. The conferences attracted experts in the field of gender medicine such as former board member and current WHF advisor Marianne J. Legato, MD of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York; Nieca Goldberg, MD, author of the New York Times bestseller, Women Are Not Small Men; and Mehmet Oz, MD, a distinguished cardiologist, lecturer and TV personality for the Discovery Channel. As a result, many New Jersey women have come forward to share their compelling stories of survival. Three women stories are succinctly outlined in WHF’s “Take Care of Your Heart” brochure with a critical message about gender care and how heart disease affects women differently. The three women portrayed – Jean, Cynthia and Beverly — are taking all women to heart with lessons on how to advocate for yourself for better heart care, and how to survive and thrive. Read their stories. It could save your life.

In 2004, the WHF launched the Teen Esteem Health & Fitness Program© – a public and private partnership to create a gym-alternative program for girls’ health. One hundred and thirty sophomore girls attending Trenton Central High School enrolled the first year and after the third year, more that four hundred graduated the program. The Women’s Heart Foundation manages the comprehensive curriculum in collaboration with the school and addresses the complex needs of the adolescent girl in today’s society. The program is also a research project being studied as a possible cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk reduction intervention. The research team from Rutgers University-Camden Department of Nursing is examing the synergistic affect of this healthy lifetyles program on teen girls’ health in an all-girl environment. Results are expected by the fall of 2007. The program has had some obvious health benefits already. The girls are starting to eat breakfast, exercise more and take better care of themselves. They are learning how to communicate and enjoy regular rap sessions on health concerns, co-led by the teacher and special guests from the university. The Teen Esteem room itself has become a sanctuary for the girls. What’s more, the Teen Esteem-enrolled students remain in school to graduate. In a school that reports as high as a 50% drop-out rate, this alone is a remarkable achievment. The Teen Esteem program represents a gender-specific care model that has been successfully meshed with the public education system.

In 2005, the WHF introduced a 12-week series on wellness for women with lectures and an experiential component and piloted this program at the YWCA of Trenton and select Curves® locations and created online courses for health professionals in the area of gender care and gender-specific medicine. The free courses offer continuing education credits in this vital area of health. The certificate program is being managed collaboratively by the Women’s Heart Foundation and the University of St. Francis in Illinois. Medical professionals may click here to begin the courses.

For full article, Gender Care Initiative


Tags: Cardiology, clinical care, Women’s Health


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