Women’s College Research Institute scientists are developing solutions to address the persistent and long-lasting effects of a variety of chronic health conditions.
Heart disease remains a leading cause of death in Canada, particularly for women where the condition has been under-researched, under-treated and under-supported. Variability in screening and quality of care impacts the ability of Canadians to live longer lives free from heart disease. Our scientists are focused on novel cardiovascular risk factors including influenza infections, fertility treatment and chemotherapy to identify individuals at highest risk and inform treatment guidelines. To address the disparities in women’s cardiac health, we are also developing solutions to close the health gap by tackling risk factors and disease prevention through unique lifestyle interventions.
Diabetes is a life-altering and expensive chronic condition with increasing rates of prevalence among young women and older adults in Canada. For women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, we are identifying effective, feasible and low-cost ways to help reduce their increased risk of future type 2 diabetes. Our scientists are accomplishing this by leveraging existing healthcare resources to provide services in a more efficient and effective way. For older adults, diabetes is associated with a high burden of comorbid diseases, decreased function and higher risk of hospitalization. Our research focuses on strategies to optimize diabetes management in this population to reduce adverse outcomes and risk of overtreatment.
In Ontario, it is estimated that up to 80 per cent of individuals with sleep apnea remain undiagnosed, partly due to long wait times for assessment and diagnosis which require an in-hospital overnight sleep study. Over time, sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of heart disease including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. Our scientists are conducting research to better understand the underlying pathophysiology of sleep apnea, to develop novel and nuanced approaches to diagnosis and treatment.
Patients with psoriatic disease encounter substantial barriers in managing their conditions, which often presents with several other medical issues at the same time. With the goal of early detection and delivery of care for these patients to improve health outcomes, our scientists are focused on understanding the risk factors for developing arthritis among patients with psoriatic arthritis. With earlier detection, patients benefit from receiving earlier treatment and possibly even future prevention of the disease.
Canadian Osteoarthritis Research Program (CORP)
Musculoskeletal concerns like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis disproportionately affect women and are primarily treated in an ambulatory setting. Our scientists are working to develop new models for more comprehensive programs and to develop multidisciplinary knowledge about best practices in care for these conditions. CORP brings together a multidisciplinary team of researchers from several institutions and a variety of disciplinary backgrounds including rheumatology, orthopedic surgery, sleep and pain medicine, mental health, epidemiology/health services research, and the behavioural sciences. Led by Dr. Gillian Hawker, CORP's objective is to reduce the impact of osteoarthritis in people living with this condition by increasing our understanding of the cause, consequences and time course of pain in affected individuals.
Women and HIV Research Program
Women living with HIV face different issues than men including unique complications of infection, sex-specific side effects from HIV treatments, emotional and mental health support needs and unique concerns around sexual and reproductive health. Recognizing the research gap that exists for women living with HIV, Dr. Mona Loutfy founded The Women and HIV Research Program (WHRP) at Women's College Research Institute in 2006. WHRP is guided by feminist, anti-oppressive, and community-based research principles and involves the collaborative efforts of a national, interdisciplinary team. WHRP is committed to conducting research that is deemed most essential to women living with HIV, and thus the research program is frequently pursuing innovative ways that provide benefit to women living with HIV. The interdisciplinary program works in partnership with Maple Leaf Medical Clinic (MLMC), where Dr. Loutfy serves as the research director and sees patients.
WHRP aims to accomplish three primary goals: 1) finalize a new model of care (the Women-centred HIV Care Model) aimed at optimizing the health and wellbeing of women with HIV in Canada, particularly those most affected by HIV including Indigenous women and trans women; 2) disseminate and optimize implementation of the 2018 Canadian HIV Pregnancy Planning Guidelines; and 3) mentor and train the next generation of researchers and clinicians that are focused on health equity for women with and at risk of HIV.
The 2018 Canadian HIV Pregnancy Planning Guidelines have been published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Canada in January 2018 and the full guidelines are available in the WHRP repository above.
WHRP has also recently launched the Trans Women and HIV Research Initiative (TWIRI) and is excited about the many current projects, knowledge translation and exchange events.