Ellen Dolgen: Time to End the Gender Bias Against Women in Medical Research!


I was excited to be invited to a press conference to hear about the WHAM Report, and subsequently, I interviewed the brilliant and dynamic Carolee Lee, Founder of WHAM.  WHAM stands for Women’s Health Access Matters.  The title of the report was enough to get me jazzed! WHAM is building the economic case for REAL CHANGE for women’s healthcare through this report produced in partnership with the RAND Corporation.

The data was quite awakening!  The WHAM Report-TheWHAMReport.org– shows us that the gender gap in medical research is holding women and our economy back.  Many diseases disproportionately and differently impact women, however, analysis and statistics used to decide treatment paradigms are not based on women.

Carolee opened up our discussion by highlighting that women are the majority of the U.S. population, nearly 50% of the workforce, control over 60% of personal wealth, are responsible for over 85% of consumer spending, and make over 80% of the healthcare decisions. Yet, women have been historically left out of medical research, even for diseases that differentially and disproportionally impact them.

Here are some interesting facts from the WHAM Report:

  • The medical research gender gap is a major obstacle to not only advancing our health, but also to advancing our economy.
  • When women are pulled from the workforce because of inadequate treatment options or to care for their families, there are direct consequences – for our businesses and our economy.
  • Only 12% of Alzheimer’s research, 7% of rheumatoid arthritis research, and 4% of coronary artery disease research are allocated to projects focused specifically on women.
  • Until now, we have lacked data about the economic costs, benefits, and social impacts of attention to sex and gender in health research.

Good News!  The WHAM report helps to point out that there are positive economic returns when we invest in women’s health research. The studies in the WHAM Report show that investing $300 Million across 3 diseases would generate $23 Billion in economic returns. WHAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“How can we continue to make decisions based on information that excludes most of our population, half our workforce, two-thirds of our wealth holders, and nearly all our spenders? We can’t – and we shouldn’t,” said Carolee Lee. “We need to accelerate investments in women’s health research.  The WHAM Report shows us that fixing these disparities is in our best interest, not only for our health, but also for our economy.”

Here is the breakdown taken directly from The WHAM Report of the first three diseases that they studied.  For more details go to TheWHAMReport.org :

Alzheimer’s disease cost our economy $305 billion in 2020.

Women are 66% of patients.
Only 12% of research dollars focus specifically on women.
The WHAM Report shows that doubling funding would generate $930 million in returns to the economy – paying for itself three times over.
That 224% return on investment is 15% higher return than returns generated by general research.

Coronary artery disease (the #1 Killer of women) costs our economy over $555 billion a year.

Women are 50% more likely to die within the year following a heart attack than men.
Only 4% of research dollars focus specifically on women.
The WHAM Report shows that doubling funding would generate $2billion in returns to the economy.
That is a 9500% return on investment.

Rheumatoid Arthritis costs our economy over $40 billion a year.

Women are 60% of patients.
Only 7% of research dollars focus specifically on women.
The WHAM Report shows that doubling funding generates $10.5 billion in returns to the economy.
That is a 174,000% return on investment.

As we all know, investors and leaders are driven by economic returns.  Big thanks to Carolee and those partners of WHAM for understanding the need to clearly show that investing in women’s health has tremendous economic returns.  This vital research will dramatically improve funding for scientists to make critical breakthroughs in women’s healthcare and focus on sex and gender-based analysis to find targeted treatments and cures for diseases affecting women.

For more information about the WHAM Report, visit TheWHAMReport.org, and to learn more about WHAM Collaborative, Investigator’s Fund go to WHAMnow.org.

There IS hope that this essential research will bring REAL change to women’s healthcare!

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