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President Biden with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House in August 2021. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Friday released a 42-page plan to promote gender equality at home and abroad — the first national strategy of its kind.

Why it matters: Women in the U.S. and around the world dealt with an unequal playing field before the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated many of the issues they face, potentially reversing years of progress.

The big picture: The Biden administration's plan in part focuses on improving economic security for women by strengthening laws that prohibit wage discrimination on the basis of gender, race and other characteristics and promoting wage transparency.

  • It plans to prevent and respond to gender-based violence by attempting to address its root causes and expanding services for survivors.
  • The administration said it hopes to expand access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health care, by building on the Affordable Care Act and defending Roe v. Wade.

What they're saying: "Following the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, women’s participation in the American labor force plummeted to its lowest level in over 30 years. Rates of gender-based violence have risen significantly, and racial and ethnic inequity has deepened," President Biden and Vice President Harris said in a letter accompanying the strategy.

  • "This moment demands a bold and united response—a commitment to do more than just rebuild to a status quo that wasn’t working for women and girls, but rather to build back better," they added.

Go deeper: The rise of women in the gig economy

Go deeper

Updated Dec 2, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on health equity in 2022

On Thursday, December 2nd, Axios health care reporter Tina Reed and congressional reporter Alayna Treene examined persisting health equity issues and the work underway to close gaps in access, featuring Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Baltimore City Health Department Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa, and Brown University dean of the School of Public Health & Professor of Health Services, Policy, & Practice Dr. Ashish K. Jha.

Dr. Ashish K. Jha identified the assumptions policymakers should be making about coronavirus through the winter season, what the pandemic highlighted in terms of health equity issues, and the most powerful tools to funding health inequity solutions.

  • On what policymakers should consider for coronavirus next year: “The big picture point I would make to policymakers is 2022 really should be our pivot year, the year we take this acute phase of the pandemic and turn it into something that we’re going to manage more chronically over the long run. What do we need to do that? Obviously, we need to continue to get more Americans vaccinated.”
  • On the pandemic’s exposure of longstanding health inequities: “It’s taken all of the challenges we’ve had, all of the longstanding inequities we’ve had in our country and really exposed them in a way and made them worse. It hasn’t created new inequities. I would say these inequities have existed for a long time, what it has really done is just highlight them in a way that is now hard to ignore.”

Rep. Robin Kelly discussed the health care initiatives in the Build Back Better agenda, the obstacles to health equity progress, and the policy provisions shaping next year’s health care agenda.

  • On obstacles standing in the way of progress: “People have different lenses, and I think that people know we need to get these things done. There’s no excuse for our maternal mortality rates, the health care disparities. COVID put a great big spotlight on the inequities and the disparities in this country.”
  • On upcoming health care policy priorities: “I think the Build Back Better Act is a great first step, but we’ll still be discussing maternal mortality, we’ll still be looking at health equity, we’ll still be looking at diversifying the health care pipeline, diversifying clinical trials, lowering prescription drug costs.”

Letitia Dzirasa explained potential impacts of the new Omicron variant on public health messaging, addressing health equity issues at a local level, and the public health challenges at the forefront for next year.

  • On looking at data and community input to inform health equity interventions: “I think it’s very important that we look at the data, that we understand the disparities and where they exist. But as we’re planning interventions and how best to implement a particular program or outreach method, we have to be community informed, so we’re looking to the community to plan alongside us.”
  • On the public health challenges defining the year ahead: “I think the important thing to note is that all of our other public health challenges did not go away because COVID came along, and so we’re going to be playing catch up in other public health areas for quite some time. I am encouraged by the increased federal funding going towards public health, but you have to remember this is an area that has been chronically underfunded.”

Axios Chief People Officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top segment with UnitedHealth Group senior vice president and chief health equity officer U. Michael Currie, who emphasized how addressing social determinants of health helps to advance health equity.

  • “You can’t have a conversation about achieving or advancing health equity and best addressing health disparities without having a real appreciation for what these social factors or social determinants of health have on individuals achieving their best possible health.”

Thank you UnitedHealth Group for sponsoring this event.

Lack of child care costs Texas billions

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A dearth of affordable child care is putting a dent in the Texas economy.

Driving the news: Parents are missing work or leaving jobs to take care of kids in a landscape pockmarked by the pandemic and labor shortages, per fresh research by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Texas loses billions to child care breakdowns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A dearth of affordable child care is putting a massive dent in the Texas economy.

  • Parents are missing work or leaving jobs to take care of children in a landscape pock-marked by the pandemic and labor shortages, according to new research by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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