Report at a Glance
Women's Health Research: Progress, Pitfalls, and Promise
Even though slightly over half of the U.S. population is female, apart from reproductive concerns, medical research historically has neglected the health needs of women. However, over the past two decades, there have been major changes in government support of women’s health research—in policies, regulations, and the organization of research efforts. To assess the impact of these changes, in 2008, Congress directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ask the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to examine what has been learned from that research and how well it has been put into practice and communicated to both providers and women.
An IOM committee defined women’s health broadly, encompassing health conditions that are specific to women; are more common or more serious in women; have distinct causes or manifestations in women; have different outcomes or treatments in women; or have high morbidity or mortality in women. Although the committee could not review all such conditions, it finds that women’s health research has contributed to significant progress in addressing some conditions, while other conditions have seen only moderate progress or even little or no progress over the past 20 years. Gaps remain, both in research areas and in the application of results to benefit women in general and across multiple population groups.
The IOM committee developed six overarching questions to guide its deliberations.