The Biden Administration announced a White House initiative on Monday that aims to improve how the federal government approaches and funds research into the health of women, who make up more than half of the U.S. population but are still understudied and underrepresented in health research.
The initiative on Women’s Health Research will be led by first lady Jill Biden, as well as the White House Gender Policy Council. Carolyn Mazure, who joined the First Lady’s office from Yale School of Medicine where she created its Women’s Health Research Center, will chair the research effort.
Biden Administration officials told reporters during a White House conference call that under-representation can lead to major gaps in research, and potentially serious consequences for the health of the women throughout the nation. President Joe Biden stated that he is a believer in the “power of research” to help save lives and get high-quality health care to those who need it.
“To achieve scientific breakthroughs and strengthen our ability to prevent, detect and treat diseases, we have to be bold,” the president said in a written statement. He wrote that the initiative will “drive innovation in women’s health and close research gaps.”
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Jennifer Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council, stated the leaders of government departments and agencies that are important to women’s health research will participate in the initiative, according to the Associated Press. Those include the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Defense, and the National Institutes of Health, among others.
“Women’s health research is imperative to understand the impact that sex and gender have on various diseases and overall health. Both of these concepts – sex as a biological classification and gender as a socially constructed role–have an influence on one’s health.”
Due to chromosomal as well hormonal differences, women are more likely to experience depression as a result of puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, according to Orlando Clinical Research Center. Heart disease and heart attacks also present themselves in those born female in a much less severe manner than they do in those born male.
“While heart disease is a leading cause of death among men and women alike, women are often underrepresented in clinical trials relating to cardiovascular medications," the center said. "In fact, one study on aspirin as a heart attack prevention method included 10,000 male participants and zero women."
The center emphasized the importance of continuing to conduct research on women’s health, and the importance for results of the search to be clear and readily available to women and their health care professionals.
Biden’s memorandum directs members to report back in 45 days with “concrete recommendations” in order to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of women’s health issues. The memorandum also asks members to set priority focus areas, such as research ranging from heart attacks in women to menopause.
The President noted additional investments could be “transformative.”