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Case study

Achieving gender equity in CVD outcomes: Lessons from WHF’s work to strengthen women’s visibility in CVD

Research from different countries suggest that women may have higher rates of in-hopsital and post-discharge mortality following a heart attack. CVD presents differently and at different stages of life for men and women, and prevailing standards of care fail to address this gendered discrepancy in treatment outcomes.

With support from Access Accelerated, World Heart Federation (WHF) is empowering female leaders and patient advocates to develop and implement gender-sensitive guidelines for CVD diagnosis and treatment.
WHF’s Act with a Woman’s Heart project exemplifies the federation’s commitment to closing gender disparities in CVD. Through a partnership with the Colombian Heart Foundation and Colombian Society of Cardiology, the project built enabling environments for improved CVD outcomes in three cities on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. These communities historically lacked access to NCD services. They are home to many people of African descent who are at a particularly high risk for blood pressure.

Act with a Woman’s Heart focused on empowering female health professionals in these underserved communities to prevent and manage heart disease, training 320 women of African descent in actionable strategies to mitigate CVD risk factors and disseminate guidelines for effective care. The training curriculum espouses “care as a lifestyle,” tasking participants with promoting a culture of healthy living for their communities and encouraging individuals to access NCD services.

In addition to the work in Colombia, WHF advances the visibility of women as leaders in the field of CVD care. Dr. Lilian Mbau is the Chief Executive Officer of WHF’s local partner in Kenya, the Kenya Cardiac Society, and she is also a member of WHF’s Emerging Leaders Programme that empowers the next generation of leaders to shape the future of cardiovascular health. WHF’s work in Kenya achieved gender parity across service providers, which is rare in cardiovascular disease.

Day by day, gender disparities in cardiovascular disease are being reduced through WHF’s coordinated action on three fronts. First, the implementation of gender-sensitive guidelines and standards of care help healthcare providers to appropriately respond to women’s health needs. Further, women cardiologists and other healthcare workers are developing professional acumen and becoming leaders in the NCD response. Lastly, women living with CVD and other NCDs are being empowered to advocate for patientcentered policies and health services.

WHF’s work to emphasize women and their CVD needs offers a key lesson on how flexible funding enables organizations to dig deeper into the needs of their target populations. It also showcases that facilitating knowledge exchange from global to local centers is a low-hanging fruit to create long-term, sustainable community and patient-centric care.


Many of the World Bank’s projects in partnership with Access Accelerated work to enhance individuals’ abilities to age healthily, particularly by prioritizing access to new knowledge and financing.

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The World Bank is acutely sensitive to the importance of primary health care and several projects funded by Access Accelerated support this first point of care.

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Access Accelerated support enables the World Bank to reimagine care by leveraging its ability to collate actionable evidence and conduct advanced analytical work. The result: a report that guides countries with aging populations to assess their readiness to respond to NCDs.

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