ACP Applauds New Executive Order Aimed at Expanding Women's Health Research

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The executive order allocates $200 million to women's health research projects and calls for integration of women's health across federal agencies

April 19, 2024 (ACP) -- President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order aimed at increasing attention and funding for women's health research, which the American College of Physicians calls an important first step in improving women's health.

"Research into women's health issues is often underfunded compared to issues that impact men, and women are often underrepresented in the clinical trials and research that comprise the knowledge base for cures and treatments," said Josh Serchen, ACP associate for health policy. "This is why it is pertinent to bolster federal policy and research undertakings to prepare for a coordinated and renewed effort to address this challenge head-on."

In a March 28 letter to President Biden following the executive order, ACP President Dr. Omar T. Atiq said, "This executive order is a much-needed and welcomed first step to improving comprehensive understanding of the science behind women's health and health needs, as well as delivering the resources necessary to effectively address women's health issues and take steps to reduce negative outcomes."

The executive order includes the launch of a new National Institutes of Health (NIH)-wide effort that will provide $200 million in Fiscal Year 2025 to fund new women's health research projects. It also calls for the integration of women's health across federal agencies. These agencies are now directed to prioritize grantmaking and other funding that furthers women's health research.

Agency leaders are also charged with identifying additional regulatory, budgetary and statutory changes that may be needed to facilitate new research in women's health. In addition, the executive order points to the need for new research efforts focused on women's health at midlife.

More Than Reproductive Health

Women's health and reproductive health are not one and the same, Serchen pointed out. "While the ACP strongly supports access to the full spectrum of reproductive health and family planning services and affirms their importance as part of comprehensive women's health, women's health is also so much more than that," he said.

Women face numerous health disparities and health challenges that "uniquely, distinctly and differently" affect them, Serchen explained. For example, according to the NIH, women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression, are more likely to die from a heart attack and comprise 78 percent of all people with autoimmune diseases, Serchen noted.

More research and effort are needed to move the needle forward, he said. "This executive order, while critical, is only a first step," Serchen said. "Many of the coordination activities and funding priorities are important to furthering the knowledge base on women's health research and improving women's health; however, an undertaking of the scope necessary to substantially improve women's health and health research in the United States will require significant investment."

Congress will need to act to support women's health research initiatives, he said.

"ACP members can urge their members of Congress to authorize and appropriate new funding to support dedicated NIH interdisciplinary women's health research programs nationwide," Serchen said.

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Back to the April 19, 2024 issue of ACP Advocate