Background: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating neurological disease that is three times more likely to impact women. Gender is a key social determinant of health that impacts the outcomes and experience of disability and impairment. There is presently a gap in understanding how gender effects the health for people living with MS from a Canadian perspective, although Canada has one of the highest rates of MS globally. The World Health Organizations (WHO) definition of health was applied in this study, recognizing that health encompasses physical, mental and social well-being. As there is limited research available from a Canadian perspective, the study focused on conducting preliminary exploration in the most densely populated area for Canada in Southwestern Ontario.
Objectives: The purpose of this interpretive phenomenological analytic (IPA) study is to understand the essence of the lived experiences of women affected by MS and their health and well-being in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.
Methods: van Manens IPA was employed to explore the lived experience of health and well-being of 23 women with MS living in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. Participants were interviewed for 60-90 minutes using a semi-structed interview guide that was audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed as per van Manens IPA, which included line-by-line reading, coding, identifying key themes and extracting significant statements. The results of the investigated phenomena were then validated with the studys participants as a form of member-checking.
Results: Findings from this study included themes for Promoting the Health and Well-Being for Women with MS and conversely Barriers to Health and Well-Being for Women with MS. Implications for practitioners caring for women with MS will be presented at this conference as an oral presentation.
Conclusions: Findings from this study indicate that health care providers ought to consider how various social determinants of health effects the health and physical, mental and social well-being of women living with MS. Gender was shown to influence how women experienced personal agency, or the lack thereof, within various social structures (e.g., barriers to necessary treatment options and accessibility services). Furthermore, health care providers may be the only access point for this population to obtain resources, they therefore play a crucial role in supporting womens health and well-being.