Celebrating National Women’s Health Week with ORWH: 
Explore Recent Events & Review New Resources 

By Dr. Janine A. Clayton

Dr. Clayton headshot

National Women’s Health Week

The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) is the focal point for women’s health research at NIH, and our main mission is to ensure NIH is “Putting Science to Work for the Health of Women.” This year’s National Women’s Health Week (NWHW) theme was focused on “Empowering Women, Cultivating Health: Celebrating Voices, Wellness, and Resilience,” shining a light on health issues and priorities affecting women and girls across the lifespan. In celebration of NWHW 2024, ORWH hosted events such as the 8th Annual Vivian W. Pinn Symposium and the first-ever NIH Women’s Health Research Roundtable event, Future Directions in Menopause Research: Optimizing Midlife Health of Women Roundtable. I was honored to serve as an HHS Office of Women’s Health (OWH) Ambassador for NWHW 2024. ORWH also released a bevy of new resources that highlight research on women’s health−specific conditions.

White House Women’s Health Research Initiative  

The launch of the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research communicates a clear goal: accelerate investment in women’s health research so that we can improve the health and lives of all women. The initiative galvanizes the federal government and private sector to spur innovation and identify bold health care solutions to diseases and conditions that only affect women, predominantly affect women, or affect women differently. The prioritization of women’s health research ensures we continue to discover innovative scientific discoveries, advances, and contributions to the women’s health research landscape. This initiative is poignant and exciting in the context of NWHW 2024 celebrations; we have much to look forward to!  

Strategic Plan

I am delighted to announce the launch of the 2024-2028 NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for Research on the Health of Women. The strategic plan serves as a roadmap to guide NIH’s highest priorities to advance women’s health research over the next 5 years. This plan sets forth ambitious goals to examine various factors influencing women’s health; improve data science practices; support women scientists’ career development; support basic and translational study of the biology underlying sex influences; and promote community-engaged science for evidence-based solutions. It also operationalizes policy recommendations to ensure the health needs of women are considered, assessed, and reported for federal research and data collection efforts.

Forging into the Future: Research on the Health of Women at NIH and Beyond  

To announce the launch of the strategic plan, NIH Director Dr. Monica Bertagnolli shared her vision for the future of research on women’s health in a video titled Forging into the Future: Research on the Health of Women at NIH and Beyond. Dr. Bertagnolli discussed why women’s health research is of critical and personal importance to her and reviewed the guiding principles and goals of the new strategic plan. This video also announces a few additional resources ORWH has recently released, which I’ll dive into next.

NIH Fact Sheets on Women’s Health Research  

The NIH Fact Sheets on Women’s Health Research provide health and disease data on women, with relevant discussions on how sex and gender influences and female-specific considerations play a role in the health of women. The selected health and disease topics were chosen because they align with key issues of morbidity and mortality for women. The fact sheets identify the state of the science on autoimmune diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, HIV, maternal morbidity and mortality, menopause, mental health, substance use disorder, and violence against women and trauma for women’s health. This resource extends traditionally narrow focuses on disease and research type toward the promotion of an interdisciplinary research agenda, to champion a multifaceted approach to collectively address identified women’s health priority topics.

Health of Women of U3 Populations Data Book  

In 2017, ORWH developed the understudied, underrepresented, and underreported (U3) program to draw attention to populations of women experiencing health disparities and catalyze biomedical research to address gaps in knowledge and support research to fill these gaps. The fifth edition of the Health of Women of U3 Populations Data Book explores the health of women of underrepresented, understudied, and underreported populations, with particular attention to the ways in which socially determined categories and environments, systems, and policies overlap and intersect, resulting in different outcomes for individuals and communities. The data book provides information to widen our knowledge base on how intersecting social constructs, such as class, race, age, and gender converge to influence treatment outcomes and health trajectories of U3 populations of women.

8th Annual Vivian W. Pinn Symposium—Synergy in Science: Innovations in Autoimmune Disease Research and Care

Since 2017, ORWH has hosted the Annual Vivian W. Pinn Symposium during NWHW in May. The event honors the first full-time director of the office, Vivian W. Pinn, M.D., and serves as a critical forum for experts across sectors to communicate and collaborate for the advancement of women’s health. This year’s symposium gathered experts from the autoimmune disease community to discuss cutting-edge insights and the state of the science on sex differences in autoimmune diseases. The symposium also explored innovations arising from NIH’s intramural research programs that will drive progress in autoimmune disease care. Jane Buckner, M.D., president, Benaroya Research Institute, delivered the keynote address, “Understanding the Immunome: Past, Present, and Future.” David Fajgenbaum, M.D., M.B.A., M.Sc., co-founder and president, Every Cure, led a fireside chat. To close out the event, Gail Kerr, M.D., FRCP (Edin), FACR, MACR, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Georgetown and Howard University Hospitals, gave the capstone address.  

Future Directions in Menopause Research: Optimizing Midlife Health of Women Roundtable

Hosted by ORWH and the Office of Disease Prevention (ODP), the menopause roundtable served as the launch event for a series of aligned efforts to galvanize research on women’s midlife health as part of NIH efforts for the White House Women’s Health Research Initiative. The series will engage the extramural research community to bring greater awareness to female-specific health conditions, as well as diseases and conditions that present differently in women. This first roundtable informed and sparked dialogue around the science on menopause and highlighted NIH-supported work in the menopausal research domain. We heard remarks from roundtable speakers, Susan Reed, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., Samar El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H., FAHA, and Hadine Joffe, M.D., M.Sc. They discussed the current state of the science on menopause and highlighted their NIH-supported work in the menopause research domain. In case you missed it, a recording will be made available on the event page in the coming weeks. ODP will continue its work to advance midlife health research by hosting a Pathways to Prevention (P2P) workshop in 2025 to identify research gaps in the menopausal tradition and to promote well-being through women’s midlife and beyond.

Dr. Clayton’s Q&A Videos on Menopause

Recently, I answered common questions about menopause in a video series posted on NIH’s Instagram. I covered a variety of topics, including hair loss, heavy bleeding, bone health, first symptoms, and menopause research. You can watch the videos by following @NIHgov on Instagram or view the entire series on the ORWH Research on Menopause & Midlife Health webpage. I hope these videos help women experiencing the menopause transition and symptoms understand what their bodies are going through and learn how menopause can impact their health and what they should be aware of during the transition.  

Wrapping Up

I wish everyone a happy and healthy summer and encourage you to explore the new resources that are now available here