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White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research

White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research

Despite decades of advancement in medical research, disparities in women’s health continue to impact patient outcomes and quality of life. The White House’s new Initiative on Women’s Health Research is an important step toward health equity.  

On November 13th,  President Biden announced the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research within the Office of the First Lady. Health officials are recognizing the fact that women have been understudied and underrepresented in health research, despite accounting for more than half the population.  While the National Institutes of Health has established the Office of Research on Women's Health in 1990 to address the underrepresentation of women in NIH-funded research, progress has been encouraging yet insufficient. The NIH has implemented policies to ensure women's inclusion in research, increased funding for women's health studies, and launched programs to train researchers in this area. Nonetheless, significant information gaps remain in women’s health research. The initiative marks the White House’s first major effort to specifically address the gaps in women’s health funding and research. Jill Biden will lead the efforts outlined in the initiative alongside director Dr. Carolyn Mazure, the founder of Yale School of Medicine’s Women’s Health Research. The overall goal of the White House’s landmark initiative is to advance women’s health research in the United States and creative cohesive coordination across stakeholders. The first order of business for members of the initiative is to provide the current administration with concrete recommendations within 45 days of the November 13th announcement.  

The White House's announcement highlights the need to accelerate research for health conditions that pose significant risk for women. Specifically, the memorandum discusses the disproportionate burden of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disorders, and mental health conditions for women. Conditions that disproportionally affect women typically receive less funding than conditions primarily affecting men. Within women’s health, other disparities exist and place women of color at high risk for certain health conditions. Maternal mortality is another pressing public health crisis in the United States. The rate of maternal mortality for non-Hispanic Black women is more than double the rate for White women. These disparities further solidify the need for improved women’s health research to create equitable care access and health outcomes.  

The White House Initiative on Women's Health Research aims to advance women's health research in the United States through advisory functions that include:  

  • Evaluating the Federal research landscape to identify areas for additional investments that could significantly improve women's health. 
  • Establishing initiative-wide priorities to guide strategic federal research funding. 
  • Enhancing collaboration among agencies and offices conducting women's health research to integrate research efforts and promote interdisciplinary partnership. 
  • Developing policy recommendations to ensure women's health needs are considered, assessed, and reported in federal research and data collection efforts, adhering to current guidelines. 
  • Formulating targeted recommendations to address health disparities and inequities affecting women, considering factors like race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, disability, and environmental exposures. 
  • Developing recommendations to translate research advancements into practical benefits for patients and healthcare providers. 
  • Identifying opportunities to foster public-private partnerships and strengthen coordination between federal efforts and the private and philanthropic sectors to drive innovation in women's health research. 
  • Engaging the scientific and research communities by promoting the publication and dissemination of actionable research and data on women's health, making federal datasets available to support research. 
  • Assessing opportunities to recruit, train, and support women pursuing health and biomedical research careers to strengthen and diversify the research workforce. 
  • Raising public awareness about the need for increased investment in and attention to women's health research and outcomes. 

The new initiative will include collaboration with other federal health agencies. For example, the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) will play a vital role in research and funding efforts. ORWH has developed and implemented policies to ensure the inclusion of women in NIH clinical research. Other initiative membership includes U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, and Veterans Affairs, the Office of Management, and the Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.   

Investing in women’s health is an effective method of improving both economic and health outcomes. Decreasing the burden of disease for conditions affecting women can improve productivity and quality of life. Meaningful progress requires robust, dedicated research infrastructure — including a strong, diverse research workforce — and investment within and beyond the Federal Government.  Federal strategizing across agencies and partnerships is vital to creating lasting change in the healthcare landscape.  

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