Longwoods Blog

Equity – a blog
Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) has identified equity as a key component of quality care. The Ministry has developed a Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) to support improved health equity, including the reduction of avoidable health disparities between population groups. HEIA also supports improved targeting of healthcare investments—the right care, at the right place, at the right time. And that is what this blog covers. Join us in the conversation.

What can we learn from equity policies around gender to date in Ontario?

Policies and programs have generally been designed to offer health services that are equal, not equitable. This equal care was originally based on research solely conducted on men, and as research continues on the differences of men and women, little change has been implemented. As a result, significant gaps exist in providing excellent care for women. Ontario’s cardiac and stroke rehabilitation system is a perfect example of a gap that needs to be addressed. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death and disability among Canadian women. We know that rehabilitation services as a whole have repeatedly demonstrated clinical and economic benefits, however women are less likely to be referred and more likely to withdraw from the programs. Research data shows that only 11%-20% of eligible women participate in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation (CR), which is much lower than the rate of men who participate in CR. It is important to close the gender gap by developing sex and gender sensitive care to reduce the levels of disability to a minimum and to help women to age in their own homes.

It is well known that women experience unique health issues such as pregnancy and menopause, as well as various health conditions (eg. cervical, ovarian and breast cancer). However, some diseases like HIV and cardiovascular disease can present differently in women than in men. Studies have found a higher prevalence of chronic conditions, disability and limitation in activity in women compared to men. This demonstrates that women and men require specific care resulting from their biological and social differences, and Ontario’s health system needs to respond to this evidence.

Last year, Echo: Improving Women’s Health in Ontario, leading researchers and key community partners launched Ontario’s first Women’s Health Framework to support better health for women. The Framework built on the findings of the POWER Study, Ontario’s first comprehensive women’s health report that examined gender differences associated with socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and geography across a variety of health issues.  The POWER Study revealed significant inequities in our health system and underscored the need to routinely address and monitor sex and gender differences as part of ongoing provincial quality improvement efforts.

Analyzing health and health service data by sex routinely in planning and accountability exercises will benefit both women and men and is an action that can be implemented immediately. We now know about inequities in health and health service access and outcomes in Ontario. It is imperative that action be taken to recognize women’s perspectives and address differences in order to contribute to increasing the quality and value provided by health and social support programs.

Taking action that supports women to live healthy lives and to get effective care when needed is important for the health of individuals, families and communities.

About the Author:
Pat Campbell was appointed the first Chief Executive Officer of Echo: Improving Women’s Health in Ontario in January 2009. Prior to her appointment, Pat was President and CEO of Grey Bruce Health Services, a network of six hospitals. She has also been Senior Vice President of Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre and CEO of Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. Pat holds a BSc Nursing and an MBA.

About Echo:
Echo is an agency of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care with a vision of improved health and well-being and reduced inequities for Ontario women. Echo is an effective province-wide organization that is engaged in partnerships with health and other organizations across Ontario to effect change that benefits women through sex/gender-specific information, research, education and awareness. At a time of immense change taking place in our health care system, Echo is focusing on women’s unique health needs and issues, developing and supporting innovative programs, educating health professionals, and motivating behavioural change through health information.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 at 11:13 am and is filed under Longwoods Online.