Undaunted by the absence of information about COVID-19 effects on her pregnant patients, Dr. Deborah Money set out to find some answers, and shaped government health policy along the way.

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Pictured: Dr. Deborah Money

When COVID-19 appeared in Canada in early 2020, public health officials looked to other countries’ experiences and knew one thing for sure – a time-sensitive, infectious disease informed response was critical to reduce transmission, mortality and negative impact.  But with little data available, there was far more about this deadly virus that the healthcare sector did not know.

Once it became clear that COVID-19 was primarily a respiratory disease, obstetric alarm bells began ringing because pneumonia – also a respiratory disease – is the third leading cause of death in pregnant women. For healthcare practitioners, it’s troubling enough knowing that your patients are especially vulnerable to a highly contagious, potentially deadly disease. But the lack of empirical data meant that obstetricians had nowhere to turn to for guidance on treatment or protocols to keep their patients healthy and safe.

Dr. Deborah Money, Professor, Dept. of Obstetrics + Gynecology, Medicine + SPPH and a world-renowned clinician scientist from the Women’s Health Research Institute, immediately identified this knowledge gap as a critical problem – not only for her patients in British Columbia, but the world over.

Not one to be easily deterred, Dr. Money embraced the challenge and led the charge to fill in the gaps for her Canadian colleagues and the international obstetrics community. “I knew in my heart that if we didn’t pay attention to pregnant women at that time, nobody else was going to,” she recalled in an interview with the BC Women’s Health Foundation.

With iA Financial Group providing crucial seed funding, augmented by visionary and exemplary donor support, Dr. Money assembled a world-class research team, tasking them with creating a British Columbia surveillance program to fully understand COVID-19 in pregnancy. The trail-blazing project soon garnered national attention, receiving funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to create the CANCOVID-Preg Surveillance Project. CANCOVID brings together a Canadian network of reproductive infectious diseases experts, maternity care providers, public health officials, and researchers collecting data from all the provinces. The collaboration provides a robust, Canadian-centric picture of COVID-19 health outcomes for pregnant women that informs public health leadership and recommendations. Most significantly, in May 2021, the findings led public health authorities across Canada to prioritize pregnant women for COVID-19 vaccination, saving the lives of multiple mothers and newborns.

The support from visionary donors and the BC Women’s Health Foundation early on in this project was instrumental in the successful launch of the pan-Canadian team and allowed us to leverage this funding to gain a total of $1.6 M from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to support this timely, relevant work to understand the impact of the pandemic on pregnancy and infants.” – Dr. Deborah Money, Canadian Surveillance of COVID-19 in Pregnancy

Learn more about our COVID-19 Funds and how you can invest in cutting-edge research resulting in accessible healthcare solutions for women during these challenging times.

BC Women’s Health Foundation is BC’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the full spectrum of women’s health. The information shared is intended to educate, inform, and point readers to credible sources. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice.