Trenton, NJ - The Women's Heart Foundation recently
presented at an international forum on its highly successful Teen Esteem Health and
Fitness Program. The Foundation's program was selected for the poster session of the First World Congress on Gender-Specific
Medicine that took place in Berlin, Germany Feb 24-26, 2006. WHF designed the gender-specific wellness intervention
in collaboration with health and
physical education teachers, educators, dietitians and fitness experts. WHF
administers the program in conjunction with the Trenton Board of Education.
The all-girl gym-alternative curriculum is being studied as a possible cardiovascular
disease risk reduction program by researchers from Rutgers University -Camden
for the effect a healthy lifestyle intervention has on teen girls' health
choices and researchers are already witnessing positive results. Because the program
builds social capital, New Jersey educators are looking to Teen Esteem as a
possible long-term anti-violence intervention as well. Started in 2004, The Teen Esteem
program was one of 96 poster presentations on display at the World Congress sessions.
Kathleen C. Ashton, PhD, APRN, BC, of Rutgers University-Camden, serves as the Principal
Investigator and Bonnie Arkus, RN, Project Manager.
The World Congress set forth a research agenda with guidelines for innovators
with vision: first, link to Centers of Excellence, then translate gender-specific
research into medical practice. Finally, plan future endeavors to introduce new
clinical practice, collecting gender-specific institutional outcomes that may be
linked to other aspects of care that may be benchmarked. Engaging faculty from a
university can help move the gender-specific field forward and is an essential
first step. Universities can also benefit, filling professorships and roles for
internships. The Congress' recommendation was "Be ready for the future of medicine".
Marianne J. Legato, MD of Columbia University in New York is credited with
founding the gender-specific medicine movement in 1992 by starting the Partnership
for Women's Health at Columbia University and authoring "The Truth about Women
and Coronary Artery Disease". Dr. Legato served as the Congress president.
Dr. Legato is also founder and editor-in-chief of "Gender Medicine Journal"
(Elsevier Press) and the author of "Eve's Rib". Both publications cite references
to an abundance of gender-specific research and serve as a basis for gender-specific
medicine. Dr. Legato practices internal medicine in New York City and is an adjunct
professor at the Columbia University. For the past 10 years, Dr. Legato has been
reaching out to women's health leaders and co-founded The World Congress on
Gender-Specific Medicine with other world leaders, largely comprised of women
cardiologists concerned about the rising death rate in women with heart disease
and the critical need for gender-specific treatments and interventions. Other
world leaders directing the Congress include Vivian Pinn, MD, Director of the
Office of Research for Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health
(NIH), USA, who served as Honorary Congress President, supported by Rosaly
Correa-de-Ajau, MSc, MD, PhD, Director of Gender-based Research at the Agency
for Healthcare Research and Quality, NIH, USA. The Mayor of Berlin opened
the Congress, expressing interest in Berlin becoming the health care convention
center of the world and stating that 16% of doctors attend health care conferences,
suggesting a master plan for proceeding from 2006-2050. Specifically with heart care,
there is an urgency to apply scientific findings into medical practice and integrate
it into medical education. The concern, the mayor said, is that people in healthcare
do not react adequately to the situation (with women's heart disease) and that there is
overlap with research, politics and medicine. Incorporating this knowledge into institutions
was the order of the day. Nothing short of rewriting the medical text books was the advice
of the Congress Secretary Zeev Shoham, MD, otherwise, there was little hope that
gender-specific medicine becoming mainstreamed.
Highlights of Congress Leaders' Opening Remarks:
Click here for a complete list of leaders of the World Congress for Gender-Specific Medicine
Vivian Pinn, MD, Director, NIH Office on Research for Women's Health and Congress
Honorary President: "At NIH, we want to move forward in gender care if based on
scientifically-determined knowledge. We must transition in sex and gender factors.
Sex and gender are companions. There must be interdisciplinary research in
healthcare. We went from 'Men and women are different' to 'Not all men and women
are the same'. We need to look at 'differences' and 'same' and how cultures and
races are different. Eighty five percent of NIH funding goes out to research.
We set out a research agenda for the 21st century. For the past century there are
gaps in knowledge and emerging knowledge and health science…. We must understand
the institute of medicine, disease perception and how sex affects health.
Research studies show that only 20% of articles provide separate findings of
women and so we are forced to deduce findings based on men."
Marianne J. Legato, MD, Director and Founder, the Partnership for Women's Health
at Columbia and the Congress President and Co-founder: "Why should we
change the way we have done business? Will Gender-Specific Medicine
really change morbidity and mortality? How do we capture the data to get this
information? Does it actually improve patient outcomes and how do we go about
doing this? We need to develop sex-specific guidelines in all areas of medicine.
There needs to be a central database to pool all areas of the world. It must be
scientifically orderly and internationally effective with the burden
(for development) on professional and lay communities."
Karin Schenck-Gustafsson, MD, PhD, FESC, Director, Gender Related Medicine,
Karolinska University Hospital, Solna, Stockholm, Sweden and Congress European
Chair: "I visited the Centers of Excellence in the USA and then went home to
start fund raising. We have 1.6 million club members in support of professional
women. Incidentally, there are 19.6 million members in Germany. I visited Marianne
Legato. Marianne is my mentor. I contacted my dean for institutional support.
This is critical. We fund-raised. The Rehest family in Stolkholm and Stolkholm
county supported us with a grant and we received pharma support. You need a broad
base of support. We formed a board. Eight people applied to be director and I
became the director. We now have a staff, a board and the Karolinska Research
Center with an insurance company as the sponsor. We are looking for a director
of education - a person to institute this at a higher level. We are busy
distributing the money we got, according to the rules of the Swedish Board.
Thirty groups have been given research grants; nine clinical presentations and
dissertations have resulted. We received two scholarships from Pfizer. The
overall research areas the institute has provided funding so far:
12 projects on cardiovascular disease risk factors with particular interest on the endothelial factor and angiogenesis
8 projects in steroidal hormones
7 projects on neurology, psychiatry, stress
1 project on inflammation.
"There are Centers for Gender Medicine activities. We use the media to garner
public support. Involve top quality people. Give clinical references to all
Vera Regitz-Zagrosek, MD, Vize-Director - Cardiovascular Research Center, Chair
Cardiovascular Disease in Women, Gender in Medicine, Charité Universitaetsmedizin
Berlin & Deutsches Herzzentrum Berlin (DHZB), Berlin, Germany, and Congress
European Chair: "In 2003, I founded the Center for Gender Medicine. In 2002,
I was chair of Cardiovascular Disease in Women at the German Heart Institute
and Charite Care. I received funding from HWP. We received funding for two
research positions from the University of Young Scientists program. We received
3 million Euros from public funding. We developed chair positions. Now there are
Cardiovascular disease in women (speaker)
Gynecology and women's health
Molecular basis of gender differences created by the German Institute for Medicine (GIM). There are additional research positions at GIM that support 20 PhD positions.
"We have now established many centers for women's health around the country. The structure of the Center for Gender Medicine Board at the German Heart Institute is:
Executive Board with five core members
Speakers' Bureau president
Scientific Advisory Board
"Interdisciplinary involvement is crucial in Gender Research. It is a different
quality of research. It is a different scientific category. Get this into
people‘s heads. Gender as a category doesn't exist and that is why it is so
difficult to get funding. We need a society of Gender Medicine… scientific
organization to set standards and guidelines and establish gender as a platform
for political and scientific support, for publishing results and the distribution
of results into Education. We need one person at institutions to be the liaison.
We all started in cardiology. We need Pediatrics, Aging and all disciplines."
Susan Phillips, MD, Generalist, Queens University, Ontario,
Canada: "We think of the Social more than the Biological
and Genetics. A major determinant of outcomes is the Income of the Person. The
more specialized care gets, the worse the outcomes. (Canada practices socialized medicine.)
"What we did was…
"We promote equity and equality. We use our website to
John Eldoff, Senior VP of Elsevier textbooks and publications said his company was
intrigued by gender-specific medicine. Their publications are indexed by the
Library of Medicine - in 1-year and in 3-month increment an he urged attendees
to use Elsevier as a forum and resource.
At the same time as participants were urged to become involved, there was
knowledge that women's health programs, no matter how successful, never
receive sustainable funding. This is, and has been, a universal truth.
Saralyn Mark, MD, Senior Medical Advisor, Office of the Chief Health and Medical Officer,
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, DC, USA spoke of Women's Health
in the United States, and stated that there were 42 Offices on Women's Health nationally.
When further questioned, Dr. Mark acknowledged that only 18 states actually provide funding for their
offices on women's health. According to one director on women's health in the USA (who spoke on condition on
anonymity), only 3 states - Illinois, Indiana and California - provide sustainable funding
for offices on women's health through legislature. The federal regional offices are poorly funded too,
After the three-day conference, Dr. Legato issued closing remarks:
"We have the science; we need to implement the care and test the outcomes.
Will gender-specific medicine improve the quality of life? Improve survival?
We need to publish results." Dr. Legato stressed that men will benefit
just as much as women.
Dr. Legato warned "You want to avoid the feminist discussion.
This is a political fire storm. (When introducing the idea of gender-specific
medicine) sprinkle the information with men by making them an offer they can't
The World Congress was attended by 350 participants. There were ninety-six representations
in the Poster Session and fifty-nine members representing the scientific community of physicians,
researchers and scientists presenting on gender-specific medicine
as it relates to various aspects of disease, health and the aging process, confirming the need to progress
forward with the design of new gender-specific health intervention models,
under the framework of human rights and a world health campaign.
The Women's Heart Foundation was established in 1989 and incorporated June 11, 1992
as a 501c3 charity by nurse Bonnie Arkus. In November 1988, Bonnie started an awareness campaign of how heart disease differs
in women, after losing her own mother from the disease following a heart attack and
heart bypass surgery. Through collaboration with health professionals and institutions,
the WHF has developed early
intervention programs that are now nationally acclaimed and replicated across
the United States, such as Women's Heart Week, Medication Safety and Cards for Life.
The organization is dedicated to the prevention of heart disease and to
improving women's survival and quality of life. It is the only organization
that designs, develops and implements heart wellness and prevention programs,
based on gender-specific research and clinical models that work for women.
In February 2004, the Foundation started the Gender Care Initiative™ with seminars
for nurses in the area of gender-specific healthcare, and nurse leaders
and administrators designated by WHF as vice chairs for gender-specific healthcare
at their respective institutions.
In 2004, WHF received the National Spirit of Women
award as "Healthcare Provider of the Year", largely based on its success of
Women's Heart Week February 1-7, and the promotion of gender-specific medicine, effectively reaching out
to thousands of women nationally with free heart risk screenings and lifestyle counseling during the designated week.
In October 2005, the organization established its WHF Teen Esteem Health and Fitness
program at the Trenton Central High School. Bonnie Arkus serves as the Foundation's executive
director. For more information, visit www.womensheart.org or email