April 1, 2016
While more than 50 percent of the U.S. population is female, as recently as three decades ago, women’s health was neglected in the halls of public policy, at the research bench, and in clinical settings. Women were largely excluded as subjects in medical research studies and data was not analyzed for sex and gender differences. In the past, national education campaigns to prevent tobacco use, to encourage healthy diets or to reduce cholesterol did not target women. Additionally, women often paid more for the same insurance plans than did men and medical education did not include a focus on sex differences. There were no offices of women’s health, conferences, fellowships or reports. Additionally, there was a dearth of senior women scientists and health leaders in our nation’s medical institutions. These public health oversights had put women’s health at risk — with rising rates of undetected heart disease, lung cancer, autoimmune illnesses, mental and addictive disorders, and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS.