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From the NIH Director: NIH 2019 Women’s History Month

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Greetings NIH Family!

March is Women’s History month and a great time to reflect on the research the National Institutes of Health is conducting on behalf of women’s health. We acknowledge and salute Dr. Janine Clayton, Director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), as she leads the strategic plan for women’s health and sex/gender research through a "2019-2023 Trans-NIH Strategic Plan for Women’s Health Research."

We know of the many benefits of women’s health research in everyday life. ORWH reports that:

  • Women’s life expectancy has increased from 71.1 years in 1950 to 81.2 years in 2013.
  • Breast cancer deaths have fallen from 33.3 per 100,000 women in 1990 to 20.8 per 100,000 women in 2013.
  • NIH research identified a drug that reduces an HIV-positive mother’s risk of passing the virus to her baby from 25 percent to less than 1 percent.
  • A simpler at-home pregnancy test that shows either “pregnant” or “not pregnant” was approved by the FDA in 2003.
  • More than half of participants in NIH-funded clinical trials are women, and more scientists are accounting for sex in their research findings, which benefits everyone.

Moving forward, ORWH plans to continue to expand our understanding of the roles of sex and gender in health and disease, increase the number of women and diverse populations in clinical research, and advance women in biomedical careers.

Additionally, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that up to one in every ten pregnancies in the United States is affected by gestational diabetes. By raising awareness that women with a history of gestational diabetes have a lifelong risk for developing type 2 diabetes, we hope to help women take steps to care for their health for years to come.

Research funded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has produced human uterine endometrial cells from adult stem cells. The findings could lead to a way to produce new uterine cells from a patient’s own tissues, which could then be used to treat uterine disorders such as endometriosis, uterine factor infertility, and early-stage endometrial cancer.

As we continue to make strides in health research for women, we applaud those working hard to make these discoveries. I encourage you to learn more about Women’s History Month 2019 and the work we are doing across NIH by visiting the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion website or contacting the Women’s Portfolio Strategist, Joy Postell Gaines.

Sincerely yours,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

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