Women in Alberta are experiencing serious health problems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation (AWHF).
Conducted in May 2021 and released last week, “Finding the Break: Pandemic, Women’s Health Disparities, and the Path to Equality” examines how the pandemic has affected a number of areas of women’s health.
Data was collected through 1,657 survey participants, 72% of whom identified as women.
“We surveyed people from all genders across our province, with central questions about impact,” explains Tegan Gahler, vice president of fund development and stakeholder engagement. its impact on women here in our province.
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Key findings showed that 63% of women said pandemic stress had a negative impact on their physical health, while 8% were diagnosed with a mental health disorder during the pandemic.
“One of the most shocking statistics is that 11 percent of women have attempted self-harm during a pandemic,” says Gahler.
“With that, we encourage people to seek support.”
Gahler said the organization cares about people’s health, but is emphasizing women’s health due to disproportionate studies in the past.
“Historically, health research was conducted on men and women who were seen as ‘little men’,” she explains.
“But we know women’s physiology is different. We are just different beings. And so we wanted to make sure that there was a focus on women’s health research, and that the money was dedicated to women’s health research. ”
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The report goes on to say that Alberta women, facing the consequences of daycare and school closures throughout the pandemic, shoulder the responsibilities at home.
When it comes to healthcare, the risk of disease also increases.
According to the AWHF, it is estimated that more than 300 diagnoses of terminal breast cancer in Canada are a direct result of a three-month hiatus in early breast cancer screening during the pandemic.
Dr. Jane Schulz, professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alberta, has seen first-hand the effects when staff are redirected to COVID-19 units.
“During certain peaks of the pandemic, our clinic at Lois Hole Hospital for Women was completely closed and patients were unable to make appointments,” she said.
“We have to do everything by phone.”
Concerns for Schulz are around women missing their cancer screenings and other health appointments, either due to delays or because they are afraid to go to the clinic.
“Early diagnoses of cervical cancer and breast cancer are missed, and then people are more likely to develop the disease in the later stages of the disease.”
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Danielle Kopp, chief executive of The Lethbridge Pregnancy Care Centre, said the pandemic has left their clients experiencing extreme anxiety, loneliness and isolation.
“We have done everything we can to continue to safely and thoughtfully support our customers,” said Kopp. “We definitely had to get creative, and at times support had to shift to phone or online appointments.
“One thing we often hear from our customers is” Thank you so much – you’re one of the only places I can still get help. ”
Overall, Gahler said the goal of the AWHF report is to help the public better understand the profound impact of COVID-19 on women’s health and to continue raising funds to support more research efforts.
“It really just sheds some light on these issues for change and policymakers in our province. You know, what can we do on the advocacy front to better support women in the future? ”
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