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After the Pandemic: What We Need to Ensure a More Inclusive and Equitable Way Forward for Science and Medicine

October 05, 2020

As we continue to make our way through the coronavirus pandemic, I am struck by the aspects of life — big and small — that many of us might previously have taken for granted. Good health, for one. But also, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, public entertainment, visible smiles, handshakes, and hugs. We have been forced to redefine what is essential, what rewards are worth the risks, and who among us must carry outsized burdens.

At Women’s Health Research at Yale, we are confident that science will ultimately ensure our return to the relative safety and promise of our pre-COVID lives. But we also know that we cannot go back to the way it was.

We need safer systems and smarter science that offer the promise of security and opportunity for everyone. That means, as one important example, medical research that explores the health of women and sex-and-gender differences.

Before joining WHRY’s Advisory Council, I, like many others, did not know the majority of modern health research had been conducted almost exclusively with men as the sole participants. I did not know this fact of medical life started to change only in the 1990s with legislation requiring the inclusion of women in studies seeking federal funding. I did not know that even today, when women are included in studies, researchers often do not analyze results by sex, leaving questions unanswered that could point toward necessary adjustments in disease prevention and treatment.

And, before WHRY funded a study on sex differences in COVID-19, we did not know which biological mechanisms put men at higher risk than women. Now we do.

Thanks in part to WHRY’s leadership, science is changing, learning to address the unique health needs of women and ensure the exploration of our differences that brings better care for all.

It is easy to take these developments and the idea of scientific progress for granted. But, the fact is, without Women’s Health Research at Yale, science reverts to a narrow conception of its scope and purpose, losing the opportunity to advance the health of all people.

Just as science needs WHRY, WHRY, as a self-supporting center, needs you.

The center is tremendously fortunate to have dedicated supporters who share a vision for health equity and progress. Together, we fund studies that would not happen otherwise. We foster and fund those studies, and they become fully realized research programs that deliver practical results. We forge partnerships that gather diverse expertise and apply it to complicated health problems. We share results with medical professionals and the public to inform health decisions. We research and help deploy data-driven health policies that benefit as many people — and as many types of people — as possible.

When we defeat COVID-19, life will return to something we’ll come to call “normal.” But with your help this new normal will be a better one — inclusive and equitable, a new way forward.

With deep gratitude for your generosity,

Barbara M. Riley

Philanthropy Chair

Submitted by Rick Harrison on September 30, 2020