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31st January 2022

$150,000 to improve women’s heart health in rural Australia

Professor Robyn Clarke

Thanks to your generous support, Professor Robyn Clark and her team at Flinders University have been awarded a $150,000 grant to work with women in rural and remote areas who are rehabilitating from cardiac disease.

Prof Clark will be mentoring a rising star in research Dr Alline Beleigoli to lead this project, to co-design an online care pathway to better cater for women’s unique heart health needs.

Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) aims to reduce rehospitalisation and improve quality of life following an acute cardiac event.

It is recommended for patients with a range of cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, arrythmias, revascularization and valve procedures. Worryingly, only a low percentage of patients are referred to CR and even less attend.

Prof Clark said women were 20 per cent less likely to be enrolled in a CR program than men for a range of reasons.

“This includes clinicians’ bias and lack of knowledge of sex-specific cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and menopause; low CR referral rates; lack of family/social support; and inappropriate CR programs, particularly those held in hospital gyms and those with limited options for timeof- day or modes of delivery,” Prof Clark said.

“Due to socio-economic disadvantages and a lack of service accessibility, women in rural areas are at very high risk of not attending cardiac rehabilitation which leads to poorer clinical outcomes.”

Dr Alline Beleigoli and Prof Robyn Clarke are fighting to improve women’s heart health.

The Cardiac Rehabilitation Especially for Women (CREW) program aims to improve women’s heart health by implementing web-based CR, designed in collaboration with the women who will be using it to increase their attendance and completion of the rehabilitation.

The team will collect information about patients’ preferred mode of delivery for their physical activity/exercise training, psychosocial support and medication adherence. Once the web-based program is implemented, attendance and completion will be compared to levels before it was introduced.

“If we can demonstrate that the online web-based program is effective, we will aim to implement it into practice across Australia,” said Prof Clark.

“Our team is inspired by the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of millions of people who have cardiovascular disease.

“Thanks to the support from The Hospital Research Foundation Group* and Australian Heart Research, we are able to refine our current web-based program that we hope will improve the heart health of millions of Australian women, while at the same time develop our next generation of female research leaders in women’s cardiovascular disease.”

We look forward to updating you on the progress of Prof Clark’s research!

*AHR is part of THRF Group