$600K social impact bond aimed at reducing risk of heart disease in Manitoba women

The Manitoba government is set to launch a new social impact bond to help reduce the risk of heart disease among women.

Manitoba’s Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery Minister Audrey Gordon made the announcement Wednesday.

“Women experience heart health differently from men and rates of heart disease in women come at a significant cost to society and the individuals involved,” said Gordon in a news release.

“Women may not prioritize their own health above the health of others, and signs of heart disease often go unrecognized. Our government’s fourth social impact bond offers a much-needed tailored approach that aims to reduce the risk of heart disease among women in Manitoba and support post-pandemic efforts to increase physical activity levels.”

Social impact bonds are a social policy tool that combines government, the private sector, non-profits and other stakeholders to create solutions-based prevention. Private investment is initially used to fund the program and is then repaid if social outcomes and cost savings are achieved.

The provincial government will partner with the Reh-Fit Centre and the Victoria General Hospital Foundation (VGHF) on the bond that will begin in January. The VGHF will invest $600,000 over the next four years, enabling the Reh-Fit Centre to deliver virtual health behavioural mentoring sessions to about 400 adult women at risk of heart disease.

According to the province, research shows about 80 per cent of heart attacks can be prevented by being physically active, eating fruits and vegetables, and avoiding smoking. Gordon said interventions that are evidence-based and target these heart disease risk factors can help limit the burden and cost of the disease. She added that circulatory diseases are the leading cause of death and a leading cause of hospitalization in Manitoba.

“Preventing heart disease risk in women is incredibly important and we know that simple evidence-based interventions, such as increased physical activity and lifestyle coaching, are key to prevention,” said Reh-Fit Centre CEO Sue Boreskie.

The province said the program’s effectiveness will be evaluated on the number of participants in an initial assessment, the number of women who reduce their systolic blood pressure, and the number of women who increase their participation in physical activity. Officials said if the goals of the program are met or exceeded, the total maximum payback from the province to VGHF will be $648,000.

The Chronic Disease Collaborative at Shared Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority will also connect participants to the program through behavioural mentoring sessions.