When we beat as one, we accomplish so much.
Thanks to the generosity of donors and volunteers, in fiscal 2021 Heart & Stroke invested $25.6 million in life-saving research, and $25.6 million in advocacy, health promotion and community programs.
Like other organizations around the world, Heart & Stroke continued to experience significant impact from the global pandemic in 2021. During these unprecedented times, we worked hard to innovate our business and identify new ways of engaging and supporting people against a backdrop of changing pandemic restrictions that impacted every aspect of daily life.
Here are some of the achievements our donors and volunteers made possible in 2021:
1. Investing in knowledge and best-in-class research talent
Problem: Despite many research breakthroughs, much work remains to be done in the fight to beat heart disease and stroke. Every five minutes, someone in Canada still dies from heart disease, stroke or vascular cognitive impairment.
Our cause is more urgent than ever. New research has found that people living with heart disease, stroke or vascular cognitive impairment are worse off — both physically and mentally — because they were not always able to access the care they needed during the pandemic. We also learned that COVID-19 has damaged previously healthy hearts, leaving more people at risk. In addition, two years of grinding disruptions has set us back years in life-saving heart and brain research.
Solutions: We are proud to support Canada’s research community who are recognized leaders in heart and brain health.
Here are some examples of the groundbreaking research and lead investigators that Heart & Stroke donors supported in 2021:
- Finding the best treatment for stroke: Dr. Thalia Field is evaluating the best type of blood thinner for treating cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT), a rare type of stroke that most commonly affects younger women. The research is also examining the long-term effects of CVT on an individual’s overall quality of life, such as changes in thinking and concentration. Read more
- Helping patients recover: Dr. Clare Atzema works to identify ways to get heart patients back to their primary healthcare providers for the right follow-up care after they visit emergency for cardiovascular conditions including heart failure, high blood pressure, and atrial fibrillation, especially since COVID-19 has made this more urgent. Her research will help heart patients get the follow-up care they need and prevent worsening of their conditions. Read more
- Linking a protein found on the surface of cells to COVID-19 outcomes: Dr. Gavin Oudit’s pioneering research over many years on ACE2, a protein found on the surface of cells, paid fresh dividends in the pandemic. His team established that elevated levels of ACE2 in blood plasma are a strong indicator of worse outcomes when someone has COVID-19. His research will help develop therapies to reduce the impact of the virus. Read more
- Learn more about how your donations support research breakthroughs.
2. Working to improve health equity
Problem: Studies have shown that different communities in Canada experience unique challenges in accessing treatment and diagnosis. They may also face a greater risk of developing diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
Solutions: Through our health equity strategy, we are committed to finding the most effective ways of closing gaps in health equity so we can help all people in Canada achieve optimal health outcomes.
Here are some of the milestones donors supported in 2021:
Advancing gender equity in heart and brain health: Over the past five years (2016-21), Heart & Stroke has been championing women’s heart and brain health with the goal of saving more women’s lives through better diagnosis and treatment. This first phase of our innovative Women’s Heart and Brain Health initiative resulted in greater public awareness and advancing sex and gender equitable research and knowledge mobilization, including:
- More than $5 million invested in women’s heart and brain health research, resulting in over 100 publications, establishment of four research chairs and more than 10 new guidelines and clinical best practice statements.
- Creating a network of 200 leaders who are committed to advancing gender equitable research, with 82% reporting they are more likely to examine sex and gender as a critical lens in their heart and brain health research since their involvement in Heart & Stroke’s Women’s Research Network.
- Building on this important work, we are currently developing the next phase of our women’s heart and brain health strategy.
- Empowering Indigenous communities with brain and heart health knowledge: In 2021, we continued to focus on partnering with Indigenous communities and empowering individuals with the knowledge and tools to lower their risks of developing diseases.
- Our HeartSmart Kids™ program is a trusted and engaging set of resources for educators, students and families created in partnership with Indigenous organizations and communities. In 2021, we reached 602 educators and 21,179 Indigenous students and their families from across the country.
- In partnership with The Nu-chah-nulthTribal Council, we signed an agreement with the BC Emergency Medicine Network to support a community-based CPR training project in four First Nations. This initiative will build bridges between CPR instructors and leaders in Indigenous communities and build local capacity to provide life-saving response at the community level.
- To deepen our employees’ Indigenous cultural competence and awareness, we launched the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safely online training program. At the end of fiscal 2021, we achieved a 91% completion rate of the program.
3. Promoting health
Problem: Some lifestyle choices and environments are increasing an individual’s risks of developing heart disease and stroke. Research has found that:
- 9 in 10 people in Canada have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
- 8 in 10 cases (or 80%) of premature heart disease and stroke are preventable through healthy lifestyle behaviours.
- Most children should get more physical activity (approximately 60% of children aged 5-17 do not get the recommended minimum of 60 minutes a day).
Solutions: Heart & Stroke is committed to promoting the healthiest conditions and environments so more people in Canada can live healthy lives. Here is some of the progress you supported in 2021:
- Encouraging children to stay physically active: During the second year of a global pandemic, children across Canada spent many hours, each day, learning and playing on their screens with less opportunities for in-person recreational activities. In 2021, we continued to deliver innovative health promotion and community programs virtually that teach students the importance of developing healthy habits for life to lower their risks of developing heart disease and stroke later in life. Some examples include:
- Our Heart Smart Kids™ (HSK) program is a trusted and engaging set of resources for educators, students and families created in partnership with Indigenous organizations and communities. In F21, we reached 602 educators and 21,179 Indigenous students and their families from across the country.
- Jump Rope for Heart: The pandemic continued to create a volatile school environment with frequent closures, which forced students to move between in-person and virtual learning. To encourage students to stay physically active, Heart & Stroke transformed its Jump Rope for Heart program to offer an engaging virtual and in-person experience. Teachers, students and their parents could choose to participate in Jump from either home or school, learning about healthy habits while raising funds for Heart & Stroke’s work.
- Influencing healthy public policy: Heart & Stroke’s advocacy work resulted in legislative and policy changes at the federal and provincial levels in the areas of vaping, awareness of the signs of a stroke, resuscitation and nutrition. Some key accomplishments for this year:
- Protecting youth from damages caused by vaping: Heart & Stroke continued its critical work to shine a spotlight on Canada’s growing youth vaping epidemic and call for legislative and policy changes. Vaping has the potential to undermine decades of progress in lowering youth smoking rates and nicotine addiction. At the federal level, our advocacy work resulted in the passage of regulations to limit nicotine concentration in vaping products to 20 mg/ml. At the provincial level, 11 policy measures were adopted in six provinces. These measures will help to protect youth and people in Canada from the harms of vaping/tobacco.
- Raising awareness of stroke signs: We continued our advocacy campaign to call on every provincial government to fund FAST (Face, Arms, Speech and Time) – an effective stroke sign awareness program. This year, our advocacy work resulted in four provinces (British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island) securing provincial funding to launch this important public awareness campaign aimed at improving health outcomes and saving lives.
- Improving access to AEDs: In Nova Scotia, advocacy efforts with partner groups resulted in a $700,000 investment from the provincial government to equip all public schools with life-saving automated external defibrillators (AEDs). In addition, our partnership with Hibernia/ExxonMobil secured $250,000 to increase the number of AEDs on 105 fishing vessels in Newfoundland and Labrador and train vessel crews.
- Supporting active transportation: In 2021, the Government of Canada announced a $400 million fund to create a National Active Transportation strategy with the goal of building cleaner and accessible transportation trails and pathways. This move came after long-term advocacy by Heart & Stroke and many partners. Through this strategy, Canadians will have more places to cycle, walk, or ride hybrid e-bikes and scooters in order to stay active.
4. Saving lives
The problem: Too many people in Canada are dying from heart disease and stroke.
- Heart conditions and stroke are the second leading cause of death in Canada.
- One person dies in Canada every five minutes from heart conditions, stroke or vascular cognitive impairment.
- An estimated 35,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen each year in Canada – that’s one every 15 minutes.
- An estimated 62,000 strokes occur in Canada each year.
Solutions: As a trusted leader in health education, Heart & Stroke is proud to work with health professionals and the public to equip them with the latest, evidence-based knowledge and tools to save lives and improve outcomes from heart disease and stroke.
Since introducing CPR to Canada in 1976, Heart & Stroke has worked with partners to train health professionals, first responders and everyday Canadians in basic CPR and first aid. Heart & Stroke is proud that our resuscitation programs are considered the gold standard in lifesaving training.
In 2021, we issued 388,249 certifications for our resuscitation courses for health professionals, first responders, instructors and the general public through our in-person training and online learning platform. Delivered by our instructor partners, these critical courses provide the latest, evidence-based knowledge on resuscitation and skills that can save lives and deliver the best possible patient outcomes.
Other 2021 accomplishments made possible by your support include:
- Promoting life-saving guidelines: We released the official Heart & Stroke 2020 Guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) and 2020 Guidelines for First Aid which reflect the latest resuscitation science and treatment to save more lives and drive the best possible patient outcomes. These tools reflect Canada’s unique clinical healthcare practice, systems of care, and pharmacology.
- Launching new BLS program: This year, we launched a new BLS (Basic Life Saving) program which reflects the latest guidelines and delivers a flexible, enriching learning experience for busy healthcare professionals and emergency medical responders. The BLS program is the foundational program for all of our advanced resuscitation courses.
- Updating Canadian Stroke Best Practice Recommendations: Heart & Stroke is committed to providing the latest stroke best practices and tools to support effective stroke care. We closely monitor scientific evidence to equip health professionals with the Canadian Stroke Best Practice Recommendations, reflecting the latest guidance on the prevention, treatment and management of stroke. In 2021, our Canadian Stroke Best Practices website was accessed by more than 145,000 users and there were more than 42,000 downloads of our resources – an increase of 64% from 2020.
5. Enhancing recovery
Problem: An estimated 3.5 million people in Canada and their families are living with the effects of heart disease and stroke. Their most urgent needs include: :
- Support during the transition from hospital — a critical time for getting started on recovery and reducing risk of a future event.
- Support for caregivers — including the more than one in four people in Canada who report providing care to a family member or friend with a chronic illness, disability or aging needs.
Solutions: Heart & Stroke research and community outreach programs are focused on improving the recovery and overall quality of life of individuals affected by heart disease and stroke and their caregivers. In 2021, you supported these advances:
- Building community: Our two online peer support communities continued to provide a valuable space for people living with heart conditions or stroke, and those caring for them. The Community of Survivors helps people become more resilient and effective in their journey to recovery and health. It continued to grow with a total of 2,570 members and a high level of engagement (with 60% of members engaging in the group at least once a month). The Care Supporters Community grew by 14% to 809 members and showed 50% of members engaging at least once per month.
- Engaging people with lived experience: Through our e-registry network, over 3,300 people who have experienced heart conditions or stroke, and their caregivers or care partners received practical information and resources to support recovery and wellness. This is an increase of 58% from 2020.
- Providing support after stroke: We redesigned our Living with Stroke program to support people who have experienced a stroke. We are excited to launch the program through a virtual video call format in 2022 to provide continued support during the pandemic. We are also pleased to partner with March of Dimes Canada to extend the reach and impact of this program to support more people in the community.
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