Healthy change

September 18, 1990

Once every couple of years some prominent woman or other goes public about her breast cancer or cervical cancer, and there is a national surge of interest in women's health issues. But when such stories fade from the news, so does public attention.

The neglect of women's health-care issues is a widespread and critical problem. A June report from the General Accounting Office pointed out that the National Institutes of Health has all but ignored a 1986 mandate to include women in health research. As a result, the NIH has been doling out grants for important medical studies that only studied men -- research on "normal" human aging, for example, and a widely read study that presumably proved aspirin reduced the risk of heart attacks.

The proposition that medical studies which use only male subjects would produce information applicable to women is ludicrous on its face. More than that, the practice reveals a disinterest in the more complex, but more pressing, issues of women's health -- menopause, the reproductive cycle and the like. If this kind of research was done privately, it would simply be irresponsible. But the NIH is funded by taxpayers, more than half of whom are women.

Now, as a result of efforts by the Congressional Women's Caucus, the NIH has created a women's health office. It will make certain that females are included in all clinical study populations, require the NIH to establish a clinical service in gynecology and lobby for research on issues vital to women's health. Much of the credit goes to Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski -- who included provisions in the pending NIH reauthorization bill to set up and fund the women's health health office -- and to Rep. Connie Morella, who worked with the caucus to muster support in the House. Their work will ensure that in the future attention to female health issues no longer hinges on sporadic interest linked to the illnesses of prominent women.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.