Alan White, Emeritus Professor of Men’s Health, was part of a consortium of researchers at European universities who delivered the project, led by the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Institute for Gender in Medicine).
The project aimed to improve the understanding and awareness of sex and gender differences in chronic diseases, using coronary artery disease (CAD) as an example. The researchers conducted a state-of-the-art study on existing knowledge in gender differences in cardiovascular disease and a study on the awareness of health care professionals and the general population. They then used this knowledge to develop factsheets to improve knowledge and awareness on sex and gender aspects in CAD.
The researchers reviewed the published literature on gender differences in CAD in the last 15 years from all over the world. Significant gender differences that need consideration were found in all fields. For example, diabetes and smoking have a greater weight as risk factors in women than in men. New gender-specific risk factors are emerging: mental health, socioeconomic status, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, and disturbances of sex hormones and of sexual function. CAD and ischemic heart disease diagnosis and syndromes differ in women and men, as well as treatment response and outcomes.
Based on the sex and gender differences identified in the study, factsheets were developed for both health care professionals and the general public, integrating feedback from consortium partners and GENCAD extended networks. They have been validated with groups of experts for general agreement and have finally been approved by DG Health and Food Safety.
Speaking about the research, Alan said: “This is a significant study conducted on behalf of the European Commission to improve the understanding and awareness of sex and gender differences in chronic diseases, using coronary artery disease (CAD) as an example to highlight differences regarding treatment and prevention activities in European countries.
“Our role was to undertake a policy analysis across all 28 member states, which comprised contacting over 383 individuals/organisations from across Europe, alongside a detailed desk study and the identification of 273 policies and guidelines for analysis.
“In addition to our part in the project there have been two factsheets produced, one for professionals and one for the lay public which have been translated into all 27 languages across the EU.”