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Biden signs executive order meant to advance study of women's health

Women make up half of the population in the U.S., but their health is both underfunded and understudied.
Biden signs executive order meant to advance study of women's health
Posted at 5:23 AM, Mar 18, 2024

President Joe Biden is signed an executive order Monday aimed at advancing the study of women's health in part by strengthening data collection and providing easier and better funding opportunities for biomedical research.

Women make up half the population, but their health is underfunded and understudied. It wasn't until the 1990s that the federal government mandated women be included in federally funded medical research; for most of medical history, though, scientific study was based almost entirely on men.

Today, research often fails to properly track differences between women and men, and does not represent women equally particularly for illnesses more common to them. President Biden's executive order is aiming to change that, aides said.

"We still know too little about how to effectively prevent, diagnose and treat a wide array of health conditions in women," said Dr. Carolyn Mazure, the head of the White House initiative on women's health.

President Biden said he's long been a believer in the "power of research" to help save lives and get high-quality health care to the people who need it. But the executive order also checks off a political box, too, during an election year when women will be crucial to his reelection efforts. First lady Jill Biden is leading both the effort to organize and mobilize female voters and the White House Initiative on Women's Health Research.

And the announcement comes as the ripple effects spread from the Supreme Court's decision that overturned federal abortion rights, touching on medical issues for women who never intended to end their pregnancies. In Alabama, for example, the future of IVF was thrown into question statewide after a judge's ruling.

Women were a critical part of the coalition that elected President Biden in 2020, giving him 55% of their vote, according to AP VoteCast. Black women and suburban women were pillars of President Biden's coalition while Trump had a modest advantage among white women and a much wider share of white women without college degrees, according to the AP survey of more than 110,000 voters in that year's election.

SEE MORE: Women may gain health benefits of exercise more efficiently than men

The National Institutes of Health is also launching a new effort around menopause and the treatment of menopausal symptoms that will identify research gaps and work to close them, said White House adviser Jennifer Klein.

President Biden and Jill Biden announced the measures at a Women's History Month reception on Monday at the White House.

NIH funds a huge amount of biomedical research, imperative for the understanding of how medications affect the human body and for deciding eventually how to dose medicine.

Some conditions have different symptoms for women and men, such as heart disease. Others are more common in women, like Alzheimer's disease, and some are unique to women — such as endometriosis, uterine cancers and fibroids found in the uterus. It's all ripe for study, Mazure said.

And uneven research can have profound effects; a 2020 study by researchers at the University of Chicago and University of California, Berkeley found that women were being overmedicated and suffering side effects from common medications, because most of the dosage trials were done only on men.

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