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Leading Advocacy Efforts on Women’s Health Issues

May 12, 2021

Endocrine Society Partners with OWH to Celebrate National Women’s Health Week

By Grace Kranstover, Manager of Government & Public Affairs, and Grassroots Advocacy

Advocating on behalf of women’s health care and health research has long been a priority at the Endocrine Society. And we are proud to serve as a partner in this year’s National Women’s Health Week.

The celebration, May 9-15, aims to remind women everywhere about the importance of focusing on health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the event organizer, the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

We wholeheartedly support OWH’s goals along with many others that advance women’s health, including access to care and better research on women’s health issues. In honor of this week’s commemoration, we’d like to highlight some recent advocacy activities in this area.

Sex as a Biological Variable (SABV)

In March we cohosted a Congressional briefing titled “Women’s Health Research: Understanding the Roles of Sex and Gender.” Presented with the Society for Women’s Health Research, the briefing examined how the concept of sex as a biological variable (SABV) has changed since the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued its 2016 policy requiring SABV considerations in health research.

NIH’s policy directs “applicants to consider sex as a biological variable in the design and analysis of NIH-funded research involving animals and cells.”

While we applaud this directive, we know that many important studies still lack sex-based analyses, preventing researchers from truly understanding the impact biological sex has on research outcomes.

We underscore this point in our April 5, 2021, Endocrine Society Scientific Statement on the topic: Since NIH’s 2016 policy, “in many instances, researchers and reviewers are at a loss about the issue of sex differences.” Our recommendations to address the gaps include:

  • Improve oversight of the NIH policy as directed by the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255);
  • Increase sex specific reporting at clinical and preclinical levels;
  • Mandate sex-disaggregate outcomes analysis;
  • Ensure education on SABV in medical school and research training;
  • Develop partnerships and inter-agency coordination; and
  • Invest in adequate, stable, consistent research funding.

Researchers Hill Day: Advocating for SABV Research in COVID-19

SABV also was a focus at our March virtual Researcher Hill Day, where we urged lawmakers to support SABV research on short and long-term outcomes in patients with COVID-19.

We made this request because the pandemic has exposed many related health disparities, including a difference in severity and outcomes between female and male patients. Our COVID-19 policy recommendations include calls to:

  • Ensure pregnant and lactating women are not left out of research studies;
  • Disseminate research on how COVID-19 (and other diseases) affect women, and impact babies in-utero;
  • Study the long-term consequences of COVID-19 on women;
  • Design outreach to women that can help inform their health care decisions; and
  • Provide emergency supplemental research funding to restart labs, address workforce needs as recommended in the RISE Act.

We also urged congressional offices to sustain funding for NIH research that could lead to new women’s health treatments, including hormonal therapies to help women with primary ovarian insufficiency to restore bone density.

Friends of the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Finally, we are proud to serve as an executive member of the new Friends of the Office of Research on Women’s Health (FORWH) at NIH. The group officially launches this week.

The FORWH coalition is comprised of groups representing scientists, researchers, clinicians, policy advocates, and patients. Together, we state our commitment to addressing sex and gender disparities and needs within biomedical research and our health care system. Our primary goal is to advocate for federal support of ORWH’s mission and to ensure stable resources for ORWH.

We also aim to improve awareness of ORWH’s ongoing programs and successes. Going forward, we will help lead efforts to:

  • Organize meetings with the ORWH Director and relevant senior staff;
  • Submit annual appropriations testimony;
  • Organize sign-on letters related to the budget and appropriations;
  • Sponsor briefings, tours, and other events to promote ORWH; and
  • Share correspondence and periodic with FORWH members.

These are just some of our many activities around women’s health research and health care. To learn more, please visit our Women’s Health page. And to get involve in the Endocrine Society’s advocacy efforts, please email us at [email protected].

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