July 20, 2024

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Biden signs executive order for women’s health research, innovation

5 min read
Joe Biden COVID-19 antiviral
President Joe Biden [Image courtesy of the White House]

President Joe Biden this week signed an executive order that will direct funds and actions toward expanding and improving research on women’s health.

The initiative builds on First Lady Jill Biden’s announcement last month in which the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) earmarked $100 million in funds to “fundamentally change” how the U.S. approaches and funds women’s health research.

This week’s executive order follows President Biden’s March 7 State of the Union address, in which he called on Congress to invest $12 billion in new funding for women’s health research.

Biden’s executive order will create directives that will ensure women’s health is integrated and prioritized across the federal research portfolio and budget, according to the White House. It will also motivate new research on a wide range of topics in women’s health.

With the executive order, President Biden and the First Lady announced more than 20 new actions and commitments by several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The new actions include launching a new NIH-wide effort to direct key investments of $200 million in fiscal 2025 to fund new, interdisciplinary women’s health research.

What the executive order will implement

Biden’s executive order intends to integrate women’s health across the federal research portfolio, prioritize investments in women’s health research, galvanize new research on women’s midlife health and assess unmet needs to support women’s health research.

The executive order to integrate women’s health across the federal research portfolio aims to enhance research and data standards in women’s health across various federal research and funding initiatives. It directs agencies involved in the initiative to develop and reinforce the standards across all relevant research projects. Federal agencies are directed to align their efforts with the NIH’s existing policy that emphasizes the consideration of women’s health throughout the research process, including study design, data collection and analysis.

Biden’s executive order to prioritize investments in women’s health research directs agencies in the initiative to allocate funding toward women’s health research and promote innovation. The funds will go toward initiatives such as ARPA-H and collaborative efforts like the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program. The order also instructs the HHS and NSF to explore using artificial intelligence to advance research in women’s health.

The executive order to galvanize new research on women’s midlife health aims to address research gaps concerning diseases and conditions associated with women’s midlife and post-menopausal health. Biden directed the HHS to expand data collection efforts on women’s midlife health and initiate a comprehensive research agenda focused on menopause-related research. The order also instructs the DoD and VA to investigate and enhance treatment and research related to menopause for servicewomen and women veterans.

Under the directive to assess unmet needs to support women’s health research, the Office of Management and Budget and the Gender Policy Council are tasked with assessing gaps in federal funding for women’s health research to identify necessary changes to support a wide range of women’s health research effectively. Agencies must provide annual reports on their investments in women’s health research and the progress made.

Federal agencies boost women’s health research

Several federal agencies are ramping up efforts to advance women’s health research, aiming to address critical gaps and improve outcomes across all stages of life.

The NIH is launching a $200 million initiative to catalyze interdisciplinary research on women’s health, with a focus on issues like the impact of perimenopause and menopause on heart, brain, and bone health. This comprehensive effort, led by NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health, marks a significant step toward closing gaps in understanding and treating health issues affecting women throughout their lives.

White House
[Image from René DeAnda on Unsplash]

Additionally, the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), led by the DoD, is consistently funding research on women’s health, allocating nearly $490 million in fiscal year 2022 and an expected $500 million in fiscal 2023. These investments cover various diseases and conditions affecting women, reflecting a sustained commitment to advancing women’s health.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is calling for multidisciplinary research proposals to address women’s health disparities, including computational research and engineering biomechanics. By inviting innovative proposals, NSF aims to foster groundbreaking research that can significantly advance women’s health outcomes.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is updating grant solicitations to prioritize women’s exposures and health outcomes, aiming to enhance understanding of women’s environmental health. These changes underscore the importance of considering environmental factors in women’s health research and policy-making.

Federal agencies are also streamlining funding access, with NIH planning to establish a dedicated platform for women’s health research funding. This initiative aims to make it easier for researchers and institutions to identify and apply for funding opportunities related to women’s health research.

Innovation in women’s health research is being supported through initiatives like ARPA-H’s Sprint for Women’s Health, committing $100 million to transformative research and development. This initiative aims to drive significant progress in improving women’s health outcomes by soliciting novel ideas and accelerating the development of tools and products.

Efforts to improve data collection and analysis related to women’s health are underway. NIH aims to standardize data elements, and CMS enhances its review process for medical services and technologies. These initiatives seek to ensure that research and healthcare delivery effectively address women’s unique needs.

Collaboration between agencies like DoD and the VA will bolster research efforts focused on women in the military and veterans. These partnerships aim to address critical research gaps and improve evidence-based care across the lifespan by aligning resources and expertise.

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