Some rare good news, GFPs! This week the UK government published the first ever Women’s Health Strategy
for England and…it looks pretty good?!
For a start, as of the 24/25 academic all medical students and incoming doctors will be receive mandatory training which is intended to “ensure that more doctors have a better baseline understanding of women’s health.” The plan is also to update guidance for female-specific health conditions like endometriosis to ensure the latest evidence and advice is being used in treatment
This is a win in and of itself. But what I’m even more excited about are the bits in the plan about research.
First up, they say this:
that health and care research which should, but does not, take into account sex-based differences does not receive public funding. We will encourage all publicly funded health research to include data on the sex breakdown of participants, keep progress under review and consider the need for further action [my emphasis]
This is marked as an “ambition” rather than a commitment, but if this happens, it would be huge. The UK is currently an outlier when it comes to requiring females to be included in publicly-funded research and for data to be disaggregated by sex. This change would being the UK’s public funders in line with America’s NIH and the EU’s Horizon funding programmes. It would be so fantastic if we could make this a reality.
We, along with the NIHR, have a long-term aim to explore how we can encourage researchers to disaggregate research findings by sex. This will also help us understand sex-based differences in health conditions. As part of this, we will work with research funders to explore how females are included across different types of research, including discovery science and early phase clinical work.
And there is more.
The plan’s ambitions also include:
- an increase in research on female-specific health conditions, which are currently systematically underfunded compared to diseases that primarily affect men
- a commitment to analyse currently funded research to identify – and ultimately close – research gaps and gaps in knowledge around sex differences in health conditions, symptoms and outcomes (which I don’t need to tell GFPs would disproportionately benefit women given women are currently so under-researched)
- a plan to ensure research gets out of the academy and actually informs “healthcare practice and policy”
They’ve even remembered to address animal studies
Be still my beating heart!
AND, drum-roll please, PREGNANT WOMEN! This is truly amazing, because this literally never happens. I mean, don’t fall off your chairs here, they’re not saying they’re going to start including pregnant women in research, but they are
going to be looking at their systematic lack
of representation (an issue which GFPs will remember was behind the major snafu when it came to getting pregnant women vaccinated
By tackling the gender data gap through increased research, building understanding through training and tackling the root causes of why women’s voices are not always listened to, both women and clinicians should feel empowered to have more informed discussions over their care.
Sing it, Women’s Health Plan! Now, to make sure it actually happens….