The Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness (LJPCW) Center for Women at the Hadassah Medical Center is actively engaged in basic science and clinical research concerning gender health issues, as well as advocacy for gender health equity in research and treatment.
Basic Science Research
The LJPCW Center has partnered with Dr. Rivka Pollak of the Endocrinology Department at Hadassah to investigate the female heart’s response to menopause. The study is identifying the differences in heart anatomy and function in mice once the ovaries are removed. A second pre-clinical study, in partnership with Dr. Yosefa Avraham of the Nutrition Science Department at Hebrew University, also with mice, is exploring the cardiovascular and neurological impacts of different fat components in the diet.
Two clinical cardiovascular studies are awaiting approvals and should begin shortly. One deals with the differences in the way men and women perceive chest pain as it relates to the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. The other will look at differences in the effects of anticoagulant drugs on women and men.
“We need consciousness raising regarding gender issues in medical research in Israel,” comments Dr. Donna Zfat-Zwas, Director of the LJPCW Center. “We have to put this issue on the radar screen of our medical and scientific colleagues.”
Dr. Zfat-Zwas notes that last October, the Pollin Center submitted a Policy Recommendation to Israel’s Knesset, advocating for gender equity in health care and research and greater awareness about gender issues. Dr. Zfat-Zwas and her colleagues at the Pollin Center are working with the Knesset Committee on the Advancement of Women and Gender Equity to educate medical professionals, legislators, and the general public as to the differential health needs of women throughout their lifecycle.
As the policy recommendation explains: “While in fields other than health, gender equality implies gender justice, this is not the case in health, as biological differences between the sexes give rise to differential health needs.” The recommendation continues by explaining that “gender equity refers to the different needs, preferences and interests of women and men” and advocates for policies and programs that aim to achieve gender equity in health through appropriate design and funding.”
The policy recommendation calls for initiatives in 4 areas: government policy, health services, research, and education. It also brings out that there are significant gaps in the knowledge and practice of physicians regarding gender health issues–particularly in cardiovascular health–and that gender medicine and women’s health are not routinely taught in medical school or during residencies. While professional organization guidelines address the issue, there are discrepancies between these guidelines and common medical practices.
The recommendation urges the Ministry of Health to make gender equity in health a national priority, whereby more sensitive indicators will be used to collect data that reflect the health differences between women and men. This data collection would then lead to a plan of action, as well as ongoing monitoring of progress achieved.
The recommendation also calls specifically for a mandate regarding gender equity in medical research, where researchers will be trained in gender issues. In addition, peer review for funding would take into consideration whether gender sensitivity is part of the study design—whether the design considers, for example, gender differences in the effectiveness of a medication or treatment, as well as its potential toxicity in men and women.
All education in medical and paramedical fields, the policy proposes, should include gender training and a comprehensive gender medicine curriculum, which encompasses both basic sciences, such as genetics and anatomy, along with clinical medical specialties.
The goal is to provide quality health care to women throughout their lifecycle by remaining sensitive to the biological differences between men and women that lead to different health needs and outcomes.