U of S research chair to focus on heart and stroke prevention for Indigenous women
- EFN Staff | November 22, 2018
University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researcher has been awarded with $730,000 over five years to probe heart and stroke prevention among Indigenous women. Dr. Heather Foulds has also been named Indigenous Early Career Women’s Heart and Brain Chair.
This initiative is designed to target and find effective ways to detect, prevent and treat heart and blood vessel diseases in Indigenous women. The funding has been provided by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), USask, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
“This award and the resulting research will further the understanding of cardiovascular disease progression among Indigenous women and translate into innovative health practices tailored to Indigenous peoples,” said Dean of the College of Kinesiology Dr. Chad London in a media release. “It will provide kinesiology students and faculty with meaningful learning and community engagement opportunities.”
According to research, the death and illness rate of Indigenous people from heart disease and stroke is 2.5 times greater than for non-Indigenous people in Canada. Especially concerning is the lack of awareness and recognition of cardiovascular problems among Indigenous women, delaying their diagnosis and treatment, Foulds said.
“We know that social determinants of health are risk factors for heart disease, but these haven’t really been highlighted. And culture also has been ignored as a component,” said Foulds, an assistant professor of kinesiology. “As a Métis woman, I espouse the holistic approach to health described by many First Nations and shown on the medicine wheel—the connection of physical, spiritual, cultural, and mental health.”
For decades, women have been under-represented in heart and stroke research, and the tragic result is that many women were lost from these diseases, said Allison Kessler, Heart & Stroke CEO in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“We are so pleased to work with the Government of Canada and the University of Saskatchewan to support leading-edge research in our province, in particular with this special focus on the health of Indigenous women, who face unique challenges. The work that Dr. Foulds is doing is an important step towards turning the tide on the heart and brain health of all Canadian women,” said Kessler.
Foulds’ research program includes several complementary studies over the next five years that will be carried out in collaboration with members of the growing USask Indigenous community of close to 3,000 self-identified Indigenous students and more than 200 Indigenous staff and faculty. The research will incorporate both Indigenous and western methodologies:
Findings of the above studies will be presented to three groups of 20 women, who will study the results and then participate in group conversational interviews with an Elder. The goal is to identify potential intervention strategies that incorporate social and cultural factors important to Indigenous women’s heart health.
“I hope to broaden our understanding of Indigenous women’s experience of heart disease to reflect the broader, more holistic idea of health, and engage health professionals and community stakeholders to develop ways to identify and prevent heart disease and stroke among Indigenous women,” Foulds said.