September 21, 2005

Research on Women’s HealthProgress and Opportunities

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Office of Research on Women’s Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

JAMA. 2005;294(11):1407-1410. doi:10.1001/jama.294.11.1407

The concept of research on women’s health has evolved and expanded during recent years in ways that have paralleled, and perhaps even anticipated, some of the current challenges of biomedical and behavioral research. Fifteen years ago, women’s health research primarily focused on reproductive health. Although women were not always excluded from clinical studies of conditions outside the reproductive system, clinical research involving conditions that affect both women and men did not routinely seek to identify differences between women and men. In attempts to broaden the concept of women’s health and to recognize the increasing numbers of women of postmenopausal age, advocates for research emphasized the need to address the health of women across the entire life span, including the effects of normal aging. Research priorities were addressed in terms of life stages; however, as the influence of early life factors on the health of postmenopausal and elderly women became better appreciated, women’s health has come to be addressed as a continuum throughout life. This broad concept of what constitutes women’s health has led to the recognition that research priorities in women’s health must be comprehensive and interdisciplinary and should include not only clinical studies but also the full spectrum of research, from molecular and genetic studies to those of prevention, behavior, outcomes of interventions, and clinical translation of newly proven hypotheses.

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