Since joining the Advisory Council for Women’s Health Research at Yale, I find that certain headlines catch my eye. For example, in January I was drawn to a New York Times story announcing: “Blood Pressure Patterns Are Different for Women: High blood pressure tends to begin at a younger age in women than men, and rises faster, a new study reports.”
The study involved more than 30,000 people ages 5 to 98 followed for more than 43 years and found that women show faster rates of blood pressure increases than men by the time they are in their 20s. In addition, the study found, these differences last for the duration of women’s lives.
This and similar stories of how sex and gender affect the health of women reminded me of the title of WHRY’s student-led blog, “Why Didn’t I Know This?” The results of this blood pressure study sound like something we should have known long ago. But the fact is that research into the particular ways life-threatening conditions manifest and are treated in women remains disproportionate to the 51 percent of the population women represent. Grants from the National Institutes of Health for research into women’s health, for example, garner only 13 percent of NIH allocations overall.
And It was not until the mid-1990s when researchers seeking federal funding were required to include both females and males in their studies. It was not until 2016 when laboratory studies of humans and invertebrate animals were required to consider sex as a biological variable.
Today, we are still playing catch-up. It is why I am eager to tell anyone looking to invest in a critical and effective effort with a far-reaching impact to learn more about Women’s Health Research at Yale. For two decades, this center has driven the change we continue to see throughout medical research and practice.
WHRY has propelled research breakthroughs in preventing and treating breast and ovarian cancer, heart attacks, pregnancy complications, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, autoimmune disease, and so much more. The center is unique not only in funding and conducting important research at the earliest and most difficult-to-launch stages but in following through to ensure the work is translated into clinical practice.
The center also brings together experts from diverse fields to maximize their effectiveness in tackling today’s most complicated and vexing medical problems. WHRY instills the importance of this work in generation after generation of researchers and practitioners. And WHRY works in a powerful advocate with government representatives and policymakers to ensure that the public receives the best health care possible.
I am thankful to our dedicated supporters across the country. We have come so far, and we need to continue making both breakthroughs and headlines. We need to envision a time when we can stop asking, “Why didn’t I know this?” and start saying, “Look at what we have accomplished.”
With sincere appreciation for your support,
Barbara M. Riley