In March of 2021, the Alberta Women's Health Foundation launched in recognition of—and opposition to—the many disparities that exist in women's health.
Since then, we have been hard at work fulfilling our mission to uncover those disparities, expand our understanding, and make meaningful positive change possible.
Each day we develop further our knowledge and understanding of the current state of women's health in our province. We intend to improve the health and lives of women, knowing it is good for women and good for community health, public health, and our country's economy.
Without research, doctors are not equipped. Without research, women’s health experiences are not validated, and without research, women are unable to live their lives to the fullest, participate in our economy, and lead communities.
But without first understanding what needs to be researched, we cannot make change.
Below you will find our first major milestone in our pursuit of equity in women's health—the publication of our first thought leadership report, "Finding the Fractures: The Pandemic, Women's Health Disparities, and the Path to Equity."
Finding the Fractures: The Pandemic, Women’s Health Disparities, and the Path to Equity
In May 2021, the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation launched a province-wide survey to listen to how the pandemic has impacted women in Alberta. The survey set out to measure the pandemic’s impact in the following areas: work-life, physical health, mental health, stress, and family dynamics.
Knowing anecdotally that the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women, we launched a survey in the spring, asking over 1,650 Albertans to tell us more about their specific experiences and challenges.
Summarizing these results in our Finding the Fractures report, we bring together data and evidence of the current disparities in women’s health, uncover stories of women’s worsening mental and physical health, and detail their many challenges juggling medical appointments, childcare, and work commitments.
But of course, it does not stop here. This is the point where our movement gains momentum.
Inequities in women’s health have existed for generations, and our foundation’s new report reveals COVID-19 has exacerbated the issue.
In our survey of 1,657 Albertans, nearly three-quarters of whom identified as women, some of the staggering results we found are:
63 per cent reported pandemic stress was affecting their physical health in a negative way.
11 per cent of women experienced thoughts of harming themselves.
While women are in poorer health, they’re also facing barriers to the care they need. Due to COVID-19, many women are reporting that their medical appointments have been postponed or cancelled by a medical provider.
Women are taking on the burden of responsibilities at home. Prior to the pandemic, Alberta women took on the brunt of unpaid labour, logging double the hours of their male counterparts. With school and daycare closures throughout the pandemic, they have taken on additional child and elder care responsibilities.
These findings are just the beginning of the realities facing Albertan women identified within the report.
"We know women's health has been undervalued and underfunded for generations, and that has led to barriers to accessing health care, misdiagnoses and poor health outcomes for women in this province. Over the last 19 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardized women's health even further." ~ Sharlene Rutherford, CEO, Alberta Women's Health Foundation
We did not grasp the true extent of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on our province’s women, so we sought to understand, and asked.
Within the pages of this report, we bring together data, evidence, and a deeper understanding of the current disparities in women’s health—and how these many issues were exacerbated by the pandemic.
With this new understanding, we intend to improve the health and lives of women, as we know and understand it is not only good for women but good for community health, public health, and for our country’s economy.
We hope you will read the report, assist us in amplifying awareness of these issues and facilitate the discussion in your own circles and community, ultimately making the future brighter for women across our province and beyond.
Please note that an earlier version of the report mistakenly listed that 26% of respondents were considering a permanent exit from the workforce when in fact that figure was 24%. This has been corrected in the current version.