Brigit’s Notes, March 2014, Letter from the Executive Director

Text Size: Normal / Medium / Large
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Dear Friends of the CWHN,

It’s International Women’s Day this week (see events across the country and internationally) and in Canada the celebratory marches and events of earlier decades have died down. Do we still need an International Women’s Day? Have we achieved “equality for all women”, as IWD was set out achieve? Consider this:

1)    Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett reported in social media this week that she rose twice in the House (in French and in English) to speak about the need for an inquiry on missing and murdered Aboriginal Women. She reports that it was “was shameful to hear the government MPs heckling and shouting while I inquired about the ongoing tragedy of these women and those they leave behind, particularly so soon after the murder of Loretta Saunders in New Brunswick”.

2)    In the U.S. (and in a less robust form in Canada) there is legislation mandating that women be represented in government-funded medical research. However, a new report to be released in Boston on March 10 reveals that “the world of science is still ignoring women's unique health issues far more than it should”. One example cited of many is that less than one-third of cardiovascular clinical trial participants are women, and only one-third of trials that include women report sex-specific outcomes. And yet, in Canada and the U.S, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death among women. Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) are being prescribed to women at higher and higher rates, when the science to back its use in women does not even exist!

Do we still need a day that draws attention to both of these injustices and gaps in equality? You can probably guess what we think at the Canadian Women’s Health Network.

If those examples don’t get you worked up, maybe Lyba Spring’s latest blog will! This month, Lyba tackles the recent change in ruling in Canada relating to sex work. She outlines her own transition in thinking on this issue over several decades. Whether you agree with her current position or not, she gives us much to think about.

Elsewhere on our site, researchers Dolon Chakravartty and Robyn Lee ask “Do you want to know your body burden?” and look at the issue of biomonitoring (assessing the amount of chemicals we carry around in our bodies at any given time). With tools for biomontoring becoming more accessible and sophisticated, are we any further ahead in terms of reducing harms to  human health by knowing what our body burden is? Do researchers have an ethical obligation to report their findings to study participants when the research needed about health outcomes of these burdens lags behind? See where Chakravartty and Lee stand on this very topical subject.

And lastly, we continue to make important updates and additions to our FAQ section. This month, you’ll find a new FAQ on HIV/AIDS, and our FAQ on HPV and cervical cancer has been updated.

Please help us to keep the CWHN going. Until we can secure more substantive funding (we’re working on it!) we rely heavily on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. Visit and think generously!

- Anne Rochon Ford