Women’s health equity refers to the state in which all individuals who are women and/or were assigned female at birth have a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health. Unfortunately, this state is not yet a reality. Despite scientific and medical advancements, women continue to be disproportionately affected by many diseases and conditions, including chronic pain, depression, autoimmune diseases (see OADR-ORWH), osteoporosis, and dementia. In addition, common female-specific conditions, such as endometriosis, remain largely understudied and lack effective diagnostics and treatment options. These examples—as well as the rising rates of maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States—underscore the necessity of women’s health research and the importance of women’s health as a public health priority.
As the focal point for women’s health research at NIH, ORWH coordinates, promotes, and supports research to advance women’s health equity and enhance our understanding of intersectionality—the way in which a person’s multiple domains of identity (e.g., their gender identity, race, ethnicity, generation, and sexual orientation), combined with their lived experience, influence their health status and disease risk throughout their life.
To enable a future in which every person receives evidence-based care relevant to their needs, clinical research populations must reflect the diversity of the patient population. Within NIH and beyond, ORWH continues to emphasize the importance of the inclusion of women of all ages, races, and ethnicities in clinical research populations (see NIH Inclusion Policies), including providing support for research specifically focused on populations of women historically understudied, underrepresented, and underreported in clinical research (see U3 Interdisciplinary Research).
Research Programs & Funding Opportunities
The U3 Administrative Supplement Program supports interdisciplinary research focused on intersectionality and health among populations of women that are understudied, underrepresented, and underreported in biomedical research.
The COBRE program supports the establishment and development of innovative biomedical research centers at Institutional Development Award (IDeA)–eligible institutions. ORWH intends to support one COBRE award establishing a COBRE focused on advancing women’s health research and expanding research capacity in IDeA States in this scientific area.
OAR and ORWH launched the joint HIV and Women Signature Program in February 2023. The cornerstone of this new program is an intersectional, equity-informed, data-driven approach to research on HIV and women. The program supports women in scientific careers so they can meet their full professional potential.
Toolkits & Information Portals
The NIH MMM Web Portal highlights NIH research efforts to understand and combat the maternal health crisis. It hosts a collection of relevant resources for scientists, clinicians, advocates, and the public.
The NIH Inclusion Outreach Toolkit serves as a resource for researchers to learn about the history and importance of including women in clinical research. It also contains information about related policies and case studies, as well as tools and best practices for advancing the inclusion of women in research.
Webinars & Conferences
ORWH’s quarterly lecture series, “Diverse Voices: Intersectionality and the Health of Women,” amplifies research that incorporates an intersectional framework, and it addresses the breadth of topics relevant to the health of women.
In recognition of the significant health impacts of gender as a social and cultural variable, ORWH and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development hosted a scientific workshop in October 2022, titled “Gender and Health: Impacts of Structural Sexism, Gender Norms, Relational Power Dynamics, and Gender Inequities.” Participants discussed the landscape of NIH-supported research on gender roles, gender norms, and gender inequity and identified opportunities in this space. The workshop included discussions on methods and best practices for health research on gender roles, gender norms, and gender inequity.
In response to a congressional request to address NIH efforts related to women’s health research, ORWH, on behalf of the Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health, hosted “Advancing NIH Research on the Health of Women: A 2021 Conference” on October 20, 2021. The key topics discussed, as identified by Congress, were (1) clinical practices related to rising maternal morbidity and mortality rates; (2) increasing rates of chronic debilitating conditions in women; and (3) stagnant cervical cancer survival rates. Read the full report here.
Reports & Strategic Planning
The Report of the Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health: Office of Research on Women’s Health and NIH Support for Research on Women’s Health is a biennial report by the Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health detailing programs and accomplishments from across NIH in the area of women’s health and sex differences research. This report also includes data on the inclusion of women in clinical trials funded by NIH.
 Note: We use the term “women” to include all individuals who identify as women, including cisgender, transgender, and gender-diverse women.
 National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (n.d.). What is health equity?. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. https://www.nimhd.nih.gov/resources/understanding-health-disparities/health-equity.html. Accessed 5-Jul-2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Health equity. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity. Accessed 5-Jul-2023
 Office of Research on Women’s Health. (2020). Perspectives on advancing NIH research to inform and improve the health of women. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. Perspectives on advancing NIH research to inform and improve the health of women.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2020). Chronic conditions among Medicare beneficiaries: A methodological overview. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/Chronic-Conditions/Downloads/Methods_Overview.pdf
Angum, F., et al. (2020) Cureus. PMID: 32542149
International Association for the Study of Pain. (n.d.). Pain in women. https://www.iasp-pain.org/advocacy/global-year/pain-in-women/. Accessed 19-Jan-2023.
As-Sanie, S., et al. (2019). American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. PMID: 30790565