On November 13, the White House announced that First Lady Jill Biden, alongside the White House Gender Policy Council, will lead a new initiative to improve research in women’s health.
“Despite making up more than half of the population, women have been understudied and underrepresented in health research for far too long,” reads a White House press briefing about the initiative. “Research on women’s health is drastically underfunded, leading to significant research gaps, with serious consequences for the health of women across the country.”
“Every woman I know has a story about leaving her doctor’s office with more questions than answers. Not because our doctors are withholding information, but because there’s just not enough research yet on how to best manage and treat even common women’s health conditions. In 2023, that is unacceptable,” the First Lady said during a call with reporters last Monday.
Dr. Carolyn Mazure, a former professor in women’s health research at the Yale School of Medicine, will lead a team made up of diverse federal agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, and Veterans Affairs to provide the Biden administration with recommendations on how to advance women’s health research, including how to address disparities across race and ethnicity and disability status.
The White House stated that the U.S. must fundamentally change how it approaches funding women’s health research. The new initiative seeks “to give women and their health care providers the tools and information that they need to more effectively prevent, diagnose, and treat these conditions — from rheumatoid arthritis to menopause to Alzheimer’s disease to cardiovascular disease to endometriosis.”
Menopause in particular has “a stunning lack of information about how to manage and treat its symptoms, which can be debilitating,” the First Lady said.
According to a 19th News report, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) currently spends only 10.8 percent of its overall funding on research related to conditions specific to women and those that predominantly affect women. Only 12 percent of NIH funding for Alzheimer’s and related dementia research goes toward women’s-focused research, despite the fact that women make up two-thirds of all people with Alzheimer’s.