Women and gender-diverse individuals have unique and complex health needs. However, access to care and ability of health care providers and systems to address these needs is being affected dramatically by recent policy changes, including the Dobbs decision and subsequent state abortion bans, the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ legislative bills at the state level (ACLU is currently tracking 489), and court rulings that make in-vitro fertilization riskier or impossible. Additionally, the United States continues to report some of the highest rates of maternal and neonatal mortality among high income countries, which disproportionately effects Black and Indigenous pregnant and birthing people. Research is critically important to address a wide range of critical issues—from the delivery of preventive health services and management of chronic diseases that disproportionately affect women and those assigned female at birth, such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases, to gynecologic and perinatal health care. 

Research is also essential for tackling disparities and social determinants of health that impact these populations in unique and frequently disproportionate ways, including intimate partner violence, systemic discrimination, and climate change. Yet, research on women and gender in health has been underfunded. In Canada, a 2019 report showed that women’s health grants comprised only 8 percent of Canadian Institutes of Health Research grants. A study from the United States found that a significantly disproportionate share of NIH resources is applied to diseases that primarily affect men. Besides lack of funding, research on these topics struggles with data gaps due to historical research biases and limited clinical focus on male subjects. 

Despite these challenges, there are new and promising opportunities for improving the health and health care of women and gender-diverse individuals through research. The recent White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, signed by President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden presents an opportunity to correct some of the funding inequities in. Proliferation of telehealth also holds promise for potentially increasing access to specialized care such as perinatal mental health care. The policy roundtable and women and gender health research sessions at this year’s Academy Health Annual Research Meeting touch on many of these critical topics and demonstrate the broad range of research being done in this area despite the many challenges. We hope that these sessions not only bring attention and understanding to on-going issues related to women and gender health, but can also provide a spotlight on new and innovative methods and opportunities for improving access, care, and outcomes.

Updates on Women’s Health Research

The policy roundtable discussion on Monday, July 1st, An Update on Women’s Health Research at the National Institutes of Health, provides a crucial insight into the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, designed to strengthen federal efforts and foster partnerships that advance research and improve health outcomes for women. This initiative builds upon a foundation of historical policies that promote inclusivity in clinical research, such as the requirement to include women and minorities and consider gender as a factor in study designs. The National Institutes of Health spearheads various programs under this initiative, focusing on understanding the biological and social determinants of women's health and developing gender-sensitive interventions. Key efforts include studying sex differences and providing targeted research and career development programs to address health inequities. Overall, the initiative aims to integrate and optimize research efforts to better address the unique health needs of women, aligning with broader goals of precision medicine and equitable health access.

Women and Gender Health Selected Sessions

The comprehensive sessions chosen for the Women and Gender Health theme explore a myriad of factors influencing health care access, outcomes, utilization, and delivery, focusing on structural and systemic determinants. Research presentations will delve into a wide range of topics, such as the uptake of postpartum telehealth among birthing individualstrends in maternal mortality in underserved areas, the impact of environmental factors like wildfire smoke on maternal and neonatal health resources, and the disparities in perinatal care among Hispanic birthing people due to language barriers and differing state policies. Additional discussions will examine the effects of health insurance coverage variations, particularly those affecting American Indian and Alaska Native populations and the utilization of gender-affirming care. Further sessions will address the barriers to care for preventable pregnancy-associated mental health issues, the timeliness of diagnostic evaluations for postmenopausal bleeding, and the financial and policy implications of healthcare delivery, including the ROI of community doula programs and strategies for reducing cesarean rates

Collectively, these presentations aim to highlight critical research focused on understanding and improving health care delivery and policy impacts for women and gender-diverse individuals, integrating insights from recent studies. We hope to see you in Baltimore this June 29-July 2. Explore the full agenda and register here.

Hannah Murphy Headshot
Committee Member, Member

Hannah Murphy, Ph.D.

Lead Analyst, Research Analytics - Vizient Inc.

Hannah R. Murphy, Ph.D., is the Research Analytics Lead Analyst in the Center for Advanced Analytics & Informa... Read Bio


Jodie Katon, Ph.D., M.S.

Core Investigator - VA Greater Los Angeles Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, and Policy

Dr. Katon is an epidemiologist and health systems researcher. Read Bio

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