Women's Health Policy & Advocacy Publications

Precision Medicine: How Sex and Gender Drive Innovation

[June 2016] The Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) released a report, Precision Medicine: How Sex and Gender Drive Innovation, that calls for the inclusion of women in medical research and the analysis of sex differences to be a priority for the Precision Medicine Initiative. Launched by the White House and NIH, the Precision Medicine Initiative is a new approach to studying the differences in people's genes, environments, and lifestyle to develop targeted, more individualized treatments for a host of diseases. By not examining health and outcomes by sex/gender, important findings that benefit both men and women are missed.

To learn more, read the report.

Lung Cancer: A Woman's Health Imperative

[Spring 2016] The Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at BWH released a report, Lung Cancer: A Woman's Health Imperative, to bring greater awareness to the impact this deadly cancer has on women and to demonstrate a need for a national strategy to address the study of sex- and gender-specific aspects of the disease. The new report is a follow-up to Out of the Shadows: Women and Lung Cancer, published five years ago. Since then, scientists have begun to unlock knowledge on how sex- and gender-specific genetic, hormonal, behavioral, and environmental factors influence patterns of lung cancer in women compared to men. The report was released at a Congressional briefing on Women and Lung Cancer hosted by the Lung Cancer Alliance in coordination with the Congressional Lung Cancer Caucus. Corresponding bi-partisan and bi-cameral legislation was introduced on May 2016 in Congress that reflects the findings in the report and brings renewed focus on the impact of lung cancer on women.

To learn more about the legislation, click here.

Rethinking the Well Woman Visit: A Scoping Review to Identify Eight Priority Areas for Well Woman Care in the Era of the Affordable Care Act

[Fall 2015] Therese Fitzgerald, director of the Women's Health Policy and Advocacy Program, and Alisa Pascale, former Connors Center research fellow, alongside Margaret Beal from Massachusetts General Hospital, published an article in Women's Health Issues about the implications of changes the annual in pap smear for cervical cancer screening and the impact this may have on annual well woman visits covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Changing guidelines in pap smear screenings coincided with expanded well woman visit coverage for millions of American women under the ACA which has created confusion for health care consumers and care givers alike.

The authors examine the current state of evidence regarding support for routine preventive health visits for women by conducting a scoping review. They identified eight domains for well woman visits including reproductive and sexual health planning, cardiovascular disease, prevention and screening of cancers, unintended injury, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal intent, intimate partner violence, lower respiratory disease, and arthritis problems.

To learn more about the findings and read the article in its entirety, click here.

Taming Healthcare Costs: Promise and Pitfalls for Women's Health

[February 2016] Therese Fitzgerald, director of the Women's Health Policy and Advocacy Program, and Amy Glynn, senior policy analyst, in collaboration with Rose MacKenzie published an article in the Journal for Women's Health about the impact of Massachusetts' cost containment law Ch. 224 on women's health.

When it comes to healthcare, women are often the primary decision makers for their families. Therefore, focusing on women and their health needs can have a profound effect on health reform efforts to control costs and improve quality for all segments of the population. The promise and pitfalls of cost containment reform in Massachusetts can serve as an informative case study for policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels as they attempt to reduce costs while maintaining quality of care. Massachusetts cost containment law, Chapter 224, seeks to control the healthcare cost growth through innovative approaches to increase efficiency and transparency including the adoption of new delivery system models, investments in wellness and prevention programs, and implementation of standard quality and evaluation measures.

To read the full article, click here.

The Lancet Report: Women and Health: the key for sustainable development

[June 2015] On June 5th, Dr. Paula Johnson spoke at The Lancet Commission on Women and Health event at the Harvard School of Public Health about the launch of a new report entitled, Women and Health: the key for sustainable development. The report describes worldwide shifting priorities in women's health, incorporating health challenges that impact women across the lifespan and those they share with men but that affect women disproportionally due to biology, gender, and social determinants of health.

Well-Woman Visits: Guidance and Monitoring Are Key in This Turning Point for Women's Health

[March 2015] Therese Fitzgerald, director of the Women's Health Policy and Advocacy Program, Amy Glynn, senior policy analyst, in collaboration with the National Women's Law Center published a March 2015 commentary in Women's Health Issues about the importance of well-woman visits, which are one of the eight preventive care services no provided without cost sharing under the Affordable Care Act. Well-woman visits provide women with access to comprehensive, personalized, preventive services and a routine source of care for achieving health and wellness. However, as U.S. health reforms progress, guidance, education, and outreach associated with implementation of well-woman visits are lacking, leaving women unaware of this new benefit and jeopardizing their access to key preventive services.

To read the full article, click here.

Caution: 'Acceptable' Black Women's Hairstyles May Harm Health

[July 2014] "This spring, the Pentagon-issued Army Regulation 670-1, which included bans on several hairstyles worn mainly by black women, including twists and multiple braids. After a major backlash that included accusations of racial bias, that grooming policy is now under review. Here, researchers at the Connors Center for Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital argue that this is more than an issue of racial fairness; it could also cause harm to women’s health — and disproportionately impact black women, whose life expectancy is already five years less than white women’s."

Sex-Specific Medical Research: Why Women's Health Can't Wait

[2014] The Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women's Health & Gender Biology at BWH is proud to present Sex-Specific Medical Research: Why Women's Health Can't Wait. The report provides compelling evidence that the science that informs medicine—including the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease—routinely fails to consider the crucial impact of sex and gender. The report, coauthored by Paula Johnson, MD, MPH, executive director of the Connors Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Therese Fitzgerald, PhD of the Connors Center, Alina Salganicoff, PhD of the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Susan Wood, PhD of the Jacobs Institute for Women's Health, also includes a comprehensive list of recommendations to address the problem.

The Affordable Care Act and the Opportunity to Improve Prevention in Women: How to Make the Most of the Law

[January 2014] The Affordable Care Act (ACA) takes a number of steps to improve health through a robust prevention policy. At the centerpiece of the ACA's prevention initiative is the elimination of cost sharing for many preventive services, including eight key women's health preventive services recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and adopted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on August 1, 2012.

Prevention and early detection of health conditions or diseases identified during a wellwoman visit and regular preventive screenings can lead to effective treatment and improved health outcomes. Consequently, as national and state health reform implementation under the ACA moves forward, important challenges and opportunities arise to protect and improve women's access to preventive care and increase its quality while decreasing costs. Here we outline some of these opportunities and challenges, make recommendations for what we believe would improve women's access to preventive services, and document the impact of this landmark legislation on women's health.

Women and Health Reform: How National Health Care Can Enhance Coverage, Affordability, and Access for Women (Examples From Massachusetts)

[January 2014] In January 2014, we published a review of the literature and data analyses comparing health care services access, utilization, and cost, and health outcomes from Massachusetts pre- and post-2006 health care reform identified two key challenges in women's continuity of coverage and affordability. Massachusetts women have the highest rates of health insurance coverage in the nation and women's access to care has improved across all demographic groups. However, important challenges persist.

As national health reform implementation moves forward under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states will likely encounter many of the same women's health challenges experienced in Massachusetts over the past seven years. Our conclusion was that these areas are crucial for state and national policymakers to consider in improving women's health as they work to implement health care reform at the state and federal levels.

To read the full article published in the Women's Health Issues journal, click here.


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