Cardiovascular disease is a major concern for women. Here's what employers can do

Cardiovascular disease is a key health concern for women, and a new guide seeks to arm employers with the tools and information needed to help workers manage these needs.

The Northeast Business Group on Health noted that cardiovascular disease is both the leading cause of pregnancy-related death and the leading cause of death for women overall. Studies found that heart disease caused a fifth of deaths for women in 2021; however, about half of American women are aware of this risk, NEBGH said.

The first half of the guidebook is dedicated to laying out stats like these and making it clear to employers why cardiovascular care should be a priority. Candice Sherman, CEO of the organization, told Fierce Healthcare that one of the central goals in creating the guide was to ensure employers are aware of how critical cardiovascular care is, so they can pass that knowledge on to their workers.

"I think the most important thing is to make sure that they're informed, and to make sure their employees are informed," she said. "I think that is the single most critical thing, really, to raise awareness."

In addition to making the overall problem clear to employers, the guide offers a deep look at how chronic needs like diabetes and obesity can worsen the risk for cardiovascular disease. Diabetes and obesity have different impacts on women than they do on men, which means the response must be different, too.

The guide then provides strategies employers can deploy to assist their workforces in managing and preventing cardiovascular disease. The first suggestion? Promote a healthy lifestyle to employees, and that includes spreading awareness about the potential risks of cardiovascular disease.

Employers should also find ways to design benefits that work for women, according to the guide. That means asking them what they think may be missing from benefits packages, and what may be most valuable to attract and retain top talent.

Tap into employee resource groups and survey workers to gather critical feedback on this process, the guide recommended. Insurers can provide key data that allow programs to be tailored to meet the needs of women broadly as well as for specific subgroups.

In addition, employers can support female employees in advocating for their own health, according to the guide. They should feel comfortable making a switch to a new provider if they don't feel their doctor takes them seriously, or their questions are continuing to be unanswered.

Employers can provide avenues for women to track their symptoms and how their medications are affecting them, making for more informed conversations with providers.

"There are many incidents, some which we point to in the report, where women may be dismissed by healthcare providers," Sherman said. "We also know that women with obesity might encounter stigma, not just in the world as a whole but from healthcare providers."

"We make the point that if if you, as a woman, are not happy, and you don't feel responded to by your health care provider, think about changing your provider," she said.