April 13, 2015

SWHR Praises “The Battle For Women’s Hearts – And Lives” Commentary

SWHR commends Barbra Streisand for her commentary in The Washington Post, titled, “The Battle For Women’s Hearts – And Lives,” and for bringing into the public eye the work that SWHR has been doing for 25 years.

In the piece, Streisand, co-founder of the Women’s Heart Alliance, calls for attention to sex difference in heart disease – acknowledging SWHR’s work for the last quarter-century. Women who have heart attacks, Streisand writes, are not getting the same quality of care as men. Often, a woman’s symptoms are misdiagnosed or undertreated, resulting in more women than men dying of heart disease over the past 30 years. Streisand even notes that research on heart health still is exclusive to male participants, right down to the male rats used in labs.

SWHR is well aware of these discrepancies, and even launched a five-year interdisciplinary research network on cardiovascular disease back in 2009. The network promoted interdisciplinary and translational research that defined sex and gender differences in pathophysiology, healthcare delivery, and treatment effectiveness to reduce cardiovascular disease burden.

All these issues are a major component of SWHR’s work as the thought leader on promoting research on the biological differences in disease and disorders. In May 2005, SWHR released a report concluding that NIH’s support of research on biological health differences between women and men remained low despite growing evidence of the importance of biological sex differences. Just last May, SWHR President and CEO Phyllis Greenberger commented on PBS Newshour on NIH’s decision to change its policies to include male and female animals, cells and tissues in preclinical research, a vast improvement toward transforming science.

Streisand urges a four-point solution – all points essentially and wonderfully reflecting SWHR’s work — “What we don’t know can hurt us,” she writes, “64 percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease show no prior symptoms.” Streisand also calls for the development of new tools and testing standards specifically for women, and for women’s full representation in biomedical studies, echoing SWHR’s preexisting goals for the future of clinical trials.  One of SWHR’s priorities aims to guarantee the inclusion of women in all phases of clinical trials with sufficient representation to allow for analysis by sex, ethnicity, and other demographics. And, to encourage greater participation of women in clinical trials, SWHR supports policies to overcome financial barriers to participation.

“Women account for more than half of heart disease deaths, so why are they only one-third of participants in cardiovascular disease trials?” Streisand asks. We hear you, Barbra, we hear you: SWHR is working to include women in clinical trials, leading the way to the development of more targeted prevention and treatment strategies.