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Closing the Women’s Health Gap

April 22, 2024
by Sara Luciano

One trillion dollars. That is the amount that could be infused into the global economy annually by 2040 if we closed the women’s health gap, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum and McKinsey Health Institute. Released during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos earlier this year, researchers underscored the massive inequities that exist when it comes to women’s health and women’s health research.

Health is intrinsically linked to economic productivity, and women spend more of their lives in poor health as compared to men. The data show women live longer than men but spend 25 percent more of their lives in debilitating health.

“While improving women’s health has positive economic outcomes, it is foremost an issue of health equity and inclusivity. Addressing the women’s health gap could improve the quality of life for women, as well as creating positive ripples in society, such as improving future generations’ health and boosting healthy aging,” the report states.

To close the women’s health gap, urgent action must be taken. The authors outline four key areas that need to be addressed: science, data, care delivery, and investment.

The report emphasizes that when it comes to science, the study of human biology defaults to the male body, which hinders understanding of sex-based biological differences. Datasets regularly underestimate health burdens for women and undervalue or exclude important conditions. Women are more likely to face barriers to care and experience suboptimal treatment and diagnostic delays. And finally, there have been less investments in women’s health conditions relative to their prevalence, which reinforces a cycle of less scientific understanding.

The report aptly highlights the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research as part of the solution, including the important infusion of $100 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) recently announced by First Lady Dr. Jill. Biden. This federal investment will accelerate research from labs into the marketplace, and in turn, have a positive impact on closing the women’s health gap.

Women’s Health Research at Yale is proud to be a part of this history, infusing millions of dollars over the past 25 years into pilot projects that uncover critical health data on women and on sex and gender differences in medicine, as well as serving as a stepping stone for investigators to obtain additional funding to pursue this essential work.

“Investments addressing the women’s health gap could add years to life and life to years – and potentially boost the global economy by $1 trillion annually by 2040,” states the report’s executive summary.

The women’s health gap causes unnecessary suffering and preventable income losses. A comprehensive and collaborative strategy is needed to close the gap.

As Dr. Biden recently said, “Even though women are half the population, research on women’s health has always been underfunded. Together we will build a health care system…where women don’t just survive, they lead long, healthy, and happy lives.”

Submitted by Sara Luciano on April 15, 2024