Sara Eftekhar is passionate about women's health. She has spoken at the World Youth Congress, the United Nations, and has been awarded a YWCA Young Woman of Distinction Award. It's no wonder she loves working as a labour and delivery nurse at BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre.
"Every day I support and empower women through their labour journey."
Over the past two weeks, Sara and other PHSA employees took part in events focused on women's health: the Women Deliver conference and the Women's Health Research Institute symposium.
"We just don't have the data we need to help women live healthier lives," Sara explained, as health research has traditionally focused on white men. "To achieve gender equity, and help women live to their full potential, we need to investigate women's experience of diseases and wellness."
The timing of the Women Deliver conference provided a perfect opportunity for federal Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor to announce a $10-million investment to support cervical cancer research.
Left to right: Dr. Gina Ogilvie, Genesa Greening, Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, and Dr. Gavin Stuart at the funding announcement June 4 at BC Children’s and Women’s hospitals.
This research-focused funding will provide a significant boost to the ongoing provincial investments and work already underway to streamline the HPV vaccine, expand access and develop better ways to screen for cervical cancer.
Led by Dr. Gina Ogilvie, senior research advisor at BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre, researchers at Women's Health Research Institute, along with colleagues at BC Cancer, the BC Centre for Disease Control and other PHSA programs and sites will collaborate on this national research initiative.
"Our team has the convergence of skills, expertise, and, frankly, the passion to move forward and be the global catalyst to eliminate cervical cancer," said Dr. Ogilvie.
With over 6,000 attendees, Women Deliver is the world's largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights and wellbeing of girls and women.
Huge events like Women Deliver help build momentum and raise awareness about the ways women have often been overlooked and marginalized in health care, said Sara, who also serves as a Young Leader for the conference.
Sara was part of a small group invited to sit down with senior ministers from 21 countries to talk about the gender equality challenges they face.
Anne Stoll, Francophone Services coordinator at PHSA, helped organize and host a Women Deliver panel in French, where five panellists discussed how to best advance women's health.
Radio-Canada covered the event and interviewed Anne and Dr. Catherine Allaire, medical director at BC Women's Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis.
Anne Stoll and a panel of experts discussing women's health issues at a French-language panel
Just days before the Women Deliver conference, the Women's Health Research Institute (WHRI) hosted their annual symposium on May 31, showcasing women's health research in BC and beyond.
The symposium keynote was given by Dr. Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela, a World Health Organization assistant director-general and special advisor on key priorities, including cervical cancer. She spoke about the WHO's draft strategy and goal to eliminate cervical cancer globally.
Dr. Dorothy Shaw, former vice president, medical affairs at BC Women's, was awarded the Career Contribution to Women's Health Research Award during the conference.
Being at the symposium was inspiring for Sara.
"It's energizing to be at an event where everyone is keenly aware of women's health issues, and is working to solve them," she said.
WHRI member Dr. Beth Payne presented digital health research on the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and access. Women are 10 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone and 26 per cent less likely to have access to mobile internet.
"No one person can do everything, so it's heartening to see so many people pioneering and championing research across different sectors to lead the way forward in women's health."