Mar 18, 2024 - Health

Biden order boosts women's health research as he presses for more funding

Photo of President Biden in Congress.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday will issue an executive order to bolster women's health research, while federal agencies are announcing new steps to close long-standing gender gaps in clinical trials and care.

Why it matters: They're among the first concrete steps the White House is taking on a new women's health research initiative led by first lady Jill Biden, and they come shortly after the president in his State of the Union address called on Congress to provide $12 billion for the effort.

  • Historical underfunding of women's health research and underrepresentation of women in clinical studies has led to knowledge gaps on how to manage and treat diseases that disproportionately affect women or how certain diseases affect women differently from men.

Driving the news: The executive order, which the White House describes as "the most comprehensive" set of actions ever to advance women's health research, directs agencies participating in the initiative to develop and strengthen research and data standards to ensure women's health "is being considered at every step in the research process."

  • The order specifically calls for more data collection and a comprehensive research agenda related to women's midlife health to study conditions more likely to occur after menopause, including rheumatoid arthritis and heart attack.
  • It also directs the administration to encourage innovation through the new biomedical agency ARPA-H and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program, among other efforts. Jill Biden last month announced $100 million for women's health research and product development during a visit to ARPA-H.

The NIH is also launching a $200 million effort for interdisciplinary research that cuts across the agency's institutes. For example, it would support research on the impact of menopause on heart and brain health, according to a White House fact sheet.

  • Among other agency actions announced Monday: The National Science Foundation is calling for research and education proposals related to women's health, the NIH is created a clearinghouse for women's health research funding, and the Pentagon and the VA are collaborating on efforts to improve research and care across the lifespan of women service members and veterans.

What they're saying: Even as Congress cuts back on categories of science funding, a senior administration official sounded optimistic about the prospects for advancing Biden's $12 billion request.

  • "There have been long-standing champions of women's health research on both sides of the aisle," the official told reporters. "I think this is an area where there will be a huge opportunity to work together."
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