Jill Biden to Lead New Initiative to Boost Federal Government Research into Women’s Health

Jill Biden to Lead New Initiative to Boost Federal Government Research into Women’s Health – On Monday, the Biden administration unveiled a White House initiative aimed at enhancing the federal government’s approach to and funding for research on women’s health. Despite comprising over half of the U.S. population, women are currently understudied and underrepresented in health research.

The lack of representation may result in significant research gaps and potential health consequences for women nationwide, as conveyed by Biden administration officials and others in a White House conference call introducing the new initiative. First Lady Jill Biden and the White House Gender Policy Council will spearhead the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research.

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President Joe Biden, expressing his enduring belief in the transformative “power of research” to save lives and provide quality healthcare, signed directives in the Oval Office on Monday. Accompanied by the first lady and key officials involved in the government-wide initiative, Biden initiated the process for federal departments and agencies to commence their efforts. “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 said the initiative will “drive innovation in women’s health and close research gaps.” Jill Biden said during the conference call that she met earlier this year with former California first lady and women’s health advocate Maria Shriver, who “raised the need for an effort inside and outside government to close the research gaps in women’s health that have persisted far too long.”

“When I brought this issue to my husband, Joe, a few months ago, he listened. And then he took action,” the first lady said. “That is what he does.” Since the early 1990s, Jill Biden has been actively involved in women’s health matters, spurred by her friends’ breast cancer diagnoses. In Delaware, she established a program to educate high school girls on breast health care.

Shriver said she and other advocates of women’s health have spent decades asking for equity in research but that the Democratic president and first lady “understand that we cannot answer the question of how to treat women medically if we do not have the answers that only come from research.” According to Shriver, women constitute two-thirds of individuals affected by Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as over three-fourths of those diagnosed with autoimmune diseases. 

Additionally, women experience depression and anxiety at double the rates of men. Women of color face a two to three times higher likelihood of mortality from pregnancy-related complications compared to white women. Furthermore, millions of women contend with the daily challenges of menopausal side effects. “The bottom line is that we can’t treat or prevent them from becoming sick if we have not invested in funding the necessary research,” Shriver said on the call. “That changes today.”

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Jennifer Klein, the head of the White House Gender Policy Council, mentioned that leaders from crucial government departments and agencies in women’s health research, such as Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Defense, and the National Institutes of Health, will participate. During the recent confirmation hearing for Dr. Monica Bertagnolli’s nomination as the permanent director of the National Institutes of Health, women’s health issues were raised by most female members of the Senate health committee. 

Bertagnolli emphasized the insufficient knowledge about women’s health across all life stages in her comprehensive response. President Biden’s memorandum directs members to report back within 45 days with “concrete recommendations” to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of women’s health issues. It also asks them to set “priority areas of focus,” such as research ranging from heart attacks in women to menopause, where additional investments could be “transformative.”

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