Award for research on cardiac rehabilitation during COVID-19

a stethescope and a heart

A paper co-authored by York University researchers that investigates how COVID-19 impacted the delivery of cardiac rehabilitation (CR) worldwide has earned the Best Global Heart Journal Paper Award for 2023 from the World Heart Federation.

The award, which recognizes work that advances heart health and fights cardiovascular disease, will be presented at the World Heart Summit, May 19 to 21, to the team of researchers that includes York University Faculty of Health Adjunct Professor Gabriela Lima de Melo Ghisi (lead author), Professor Sherry Grace (senior author) and Adjunct Professor Susan Marzolini.

Sherry Grace
Sherry Grace

The team – including researchers from University Health Network, Shanghai Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Nursing, NYU Langone Health, Sydney Nursing School, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, University of Saskatchewan, University Centre Shrewsbury and Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital – studied the impacts of COVID-19 on cardiac rehabilitation around the world, with a focus on closures and the associated effects on patients and providers.

Taking a cross-sectional approach, the team surveyed 1062 cardiac rehabilitation programs from 70 different countries, and found the pandemic resulted in the temporary closure of roughly 75 per cent of programs. As well, the programs that continued to run were found to offer less comprehensive care, changed to virtual delivery, and stopped accepting new patients.

“Given the estimated number of CR programs globally, these results suggest approximately 4,400 CR programs globally have ceased or temporarily stopped service delivery. Those that remain open are implementing new technologies to ensure their patients receive CR safely, despite the challenges,” reads the paper, titled “Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Cardiac Rehabilitation Delivery around the World” published in the Global Heart journal.

The paper concludes that alternative cardiac rehabilitation delivery models are necessary to ensure safe, accessible heart rehab care.

“This work all began from a Faculty of Health Minor Research Grant for the first Global Audit in 2016. We had really laid the groundwork of our international network of cardiac rehab, and so were poised to assess the impacts of COVID-19 as soon as the pandemic hit,” says Grace. “We are proud to contribute to York’s leadership in global health, and plan to repeat the audit again soon with the pandemic waning in many regions of the globe. We hope to see that programs have re-opened and virtual rehab delivery is reimbursed.”