Government investments in biomedical and clinical research and regulation of medical products extend and improve the quality of countless lives. For decades research has relied on male test subjects and disease models, “put[ting] women at risk for missed opportunities for prevention, incorrect diagnoses, misinformed treatments, sickness and even death.”3 Medical research has also been scarred by a history of exploitation and experimentation of women of color, and it is important to acknowledge this history and ensure that medical research is free from coercion, exploitation, and unethical practices. The medical community and policy makers now recognize that women—based on genetics, hormones, and other biological factors —present unique risk factors and symptoms, disease incidence and mortality rates. Social determinants like poverty, violence, and gender roles can negatively and disproportionately impact women’s health.
Health outcomes research must prioritize data collection and the study and analysis of women and other subgroups, with the study of a women’s health covering her lifespan—from childhood, through her reproductive years, to pre, during and post menopause. While numerous recommendations, guidelines and legislation aimed at addressing gaps in scientific knowledge and reducing health disparities have been crafted over the last 20 years, most have not been fully implemented, nor have their benefits been fully realized.
– Ensure that clinical trials and other studies examine the impact of sex and race on conditions that affect us all.
– Increase and prioritize funding for women’s health priorities across the lifespan including heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, infertility, autoimmune diseases, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, mental health and many other conditions.
– Implement awareness and outreach campaigns to ensure greater participation of women in clinical trials and other research studies, and ensure outreach is transparent, comprehensive, and linguistically and culturally appropriate.
– Support research on health disparities impacting women of color.