President Biden signs executive order to fund women's health research

Steven Loeb · March 19, 2024 · Short URL:

The order includes $200 million for research at the National Institutes of Health

Even as funding to women's health startups increases, despite overall investments fall, there's still a big gap when it comes to research in the space: according to a recent report from McKinsey, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States allocates 11% of its budget to women’s-health-specific research. For example, despite women having a 50% higher mortality rate in the year following a heart attack, only 4.5% of the NIH’s budget for coronary artery disease supports women-focused research.

However, investing in women’s health could have a positive impact on the economy, with every $1 invested resulting in approximately $3 in projected economic growth. That means that investments addressing the women’s health gap could add $1 trillion annually to the global economy by 2040.

On Monday, President Biden signed an executive order to expand research on women’s health care, along with over 20 new actions and commitments from federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This follows the President's State of the Union address on March 7, in which he called on Congress to invest $12 billion in new funding for women’s health research. It also follows First Lady Jill Biden’s announcement in February of $100 million in federal funding for research and development into women’s health as part of a new White House initiative, the ARPA-H Sprint for Women’s Health.

"It is long past time to ensure women get the answers they need when it comes to their health—from cardiovascular disease to autoimmune diseases to menopause-related conditions. To pioneer the next generation of discoveries, the President and the First Lady launched the first-ever White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, which aims to fundamentally change how we approach and fund women’s health research in the United States," the White House wrote in a statement

"Today, President Biden is signing a new Executive Order that will direct the most comprehensive set of executive actions ever taken to expand and improve research on women’s health. These directives will ensure women’s health is integrated and prioritized across the federal research portfolio and budget, and will galvanize new research on a wide range of topics, including women’s midlife health."

Among those new actions include integrating women’s health across the federal research portfolio, meaning that government agencies are being directed to develop and strengthen research and data standards on women’s health. That builds on the NIH’s current policy to ensure that research it funds considers women’s health in the development of study design and in data collection and analysis. 

The White House is also directing agencies to prioritize funding for women’s health research and to encourage innovation in women’s health, including through ARPA-H and initiatives such as the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program. HHS and NSF are specifically ordered to study ways to leverage AI to advance women’s health research.

HHS is also being directed to expand data collection efforts related to women’s midlife health, as well as launch a research agenda that will guide future investments in menopause-related research. It will also be identifying ways to improve management of menopause-related issues and the clinical care that women receive and developing new resources to help women better understand their options for menopause-related symptoms prevention and treatment.

The Executive Order also directs the DoD and VA to study and take steps to improve the treatment of, and research related to, menopause for Service women and women veterans.

In order to assess unmet needs to support women’s health research, the Office of Management and Budget and the Gender Policy Council will lead an effort to assess gaps in federal funding for women’s health research and identify changes. Agencies will also be required to report annually on their investments in women’s health research, as well as progress towards their efforts to improve women’s health.

Part of the executive order includes a $200 million effort from NIH to close gaps in women’s health research, including projects such as research on the impact of perimenopause and menopause on heart health, brain health, and bone health.

Additionally, the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), led by the DoD, is funding research on women’s health, using an expected $500 million in fiscal 2023, investing in research projects that include breast and ovarian cancer, lupus, orthotics and prosthetics in women, endometriosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic fatigue.

Other actions in the executive order include: increased research on how environmental factors affect women’s health; the creation of a dedicated, one-stop shop for NIH funding opportunities on women’s health; supporting private sector innovation through additional federal investments in women’s health research; using biomarkers to improve the health of women through early detection and treatment of conditions; leveraging engineering research to improve women’s health; helping to standardize data to support research on women’s health; leveraging data and quality measures to advance women’s health research; launching new joint collaborative to improve women’s health research for service members and veterans; expanding fellowship training in women’s health research; creating a research agenda on menopause; improving primary care and preventive services for women; promoting the health of American Indian and Alaska Native women; connecting research to real-world outcomes to improve women’s mental and behavioral health; and supporting research on maternal health outcomes.

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