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Advancements and challenges in Women's Health Research...
A report published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), looks back on key events and advancements in its 30 years coordinating research aimed at improving women’s health. The report also discusses challenges that lie ahead for the health of women and the need to continue striving for equity in biomedical research.
Recent advancements in women’s health
The first advancement was the recognition of the paradigm shift from reproductive health and maternity to a life course approach. Women in the past had been viewed to be the same as men except for reproduction/maternity. The aim became a more personalised medicine boosted by the inclusion of sex and gender awareness in clinical care. Knowledge and the impact of the environmental exposures on women of all ages including the acknowledgement of the developmental origins of disease and the effects of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals on health was the second accomplishment. The third scientific advancement was the progress made in our understanding, detection, and treatment of Postpartum depression. While the inclusion of adequate numbers of women and under-represented minorities in clinical trials was the fourth. Lastly, increased numbers of women working in labs, medical schools and academic research has been another crucial advancement. This innovative approach has led to improved women’s representation in leadership.
Future Challenges in women’s health
Regards the future challenges in women’s health, top of the list are the effects of Covid-19 on health despite women’s mortality risk being lower. More research is needed on effects of Covid on all women including immune response, sex differences in risk profiles, mental health effects, vaccine efficacy, novel therapeutics, Covid-related maternal health, and pregnancy outcomes. Maternal morbidity and mortality including racial disparities are more challenges that we face. Followed by the need for analysis and reporting of sex-specific results in scientific articles. This will improve visibility of patterns of results, accuracy, and guide future research needs. Finally, there exists a need to see more women in leadership roles in STEMM fields in academia which is currently being addressed by innovative collaborative programs aimed at fostering leadership opportunities and opportunities.
Women’s health research can have a huge impact on society and everyone in it, bringing large returns from even the smallest of health improvements, so here is to the next 30 years!
 R. Douthard, L.A. Whitten, J.A. Clayton, Research on Women’s Health: Ready for the Future, J. Women’s Heal. 31 (2022) 133–144. https://doi.org/10.1089/JWH.2022.0014.
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