In Los Angeles speech, First Lady stresses need for funding for women’s health research – Daily News
In Los Angeles speech, First Lady stresses need for funding for women’s health research – Daily News

Dr. Jill Biden speaks about women’s health during Unwise Talk Day at the Getty Center in Los Angeles on March 25, 2024. (Photo by Lindsey Rosenberg, courtesy of Unwise Talk Day)

First Lady Jill Biden discussed the Biden administration’s efforts to fundamentally change the way America approaches and funds women’s health research at an event at the Getty Center on Monday, March 25.

Biden joined a conversation with actress Halle Berry called “Writing New Stories About Women’s Health (Yes, That Includes Menopause!)” as part of a series of discussions during Unwise Talk Day. This annual event aims to connect entertainment industry players with change-makers in a wide range of fields to inspire writers, artists and leaders to use media to promote social change.

During her 15-minute conversation with Berry, the First Lady discussed her personal health journey and why she spearheaded the White House Research Initiative on Women’s Health, which seeks to direct funding to address gaps in understanding and treatment of issues related to women’s health.

“We need answers about menopause and why certain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease affect women more than men, why diabetes affects women differently than men?” Biden said. “There are so many things we don’t have answers to, but that changes today.”

Monday’s event wraps up the first lady’s public appearances during her four-day fundraising and speaking tour in Los Angeles. During the trip, Biden also made remarks at campaign receptions in Hancock Park and Rancho Mirage and headlined the 2024 Human Rights Campaign dinner in Los Angeles.

The White House Women’s Health Research Initiative was launched in November 2023 to promote research into conditions unique to women — such as menopause and endometriosis — conditions that disproportionately affect women and conditions that affect women differently than the men.

Historically, women have been underrepresented in research and many dosages and treatments for conditions have been based on male bodies. Knowledge gaps are particularly large for conditions affecting women of color and women with disabilities, Biden said.

Biden recounted his own frustrating experience during menopause and hormone therapy. At first, the therapy was highly recommended to manage her symptoms, then suddenly she was told it was causing breast cancer, she said. A visit to her gynecologist did not provide much clarity on the best course of action.

“She (the gynecologist) had no answers,” Biden said. “And that’s the problem.”

“Obviously we have to find answers,” she said. “So I went to Joe and he signed an executive order to make sure we have more research and more funding, and he put (a request) in the budget for $12 billion.”

The president made his request for Congress to direct $12 billion to women’s health research during his State of the Union address earlier this month.

“Women make up more than half of our population, but women’s health research has always been underfunded,” he said. “Pass my $12 billion plan to transform women’s health research and benefit millions of American lives.”

During Monday’s conservancy with the First Lady, Berry shared how she felt blindsided by menopause symptoms and wished she had been educated about the supplements and nutrition that can help women navigate this challenging time. She also expressed her annoyance that society as a whole does not take menopause seriously, reducing it to just annoying hot flashes, for example.

“When you have hot flashes, what that does is it keeps you up at night, and when you’re not getting adequate sleep as you age, both men and women, what does that do?” It causes all sorts of physiological problems in your body that lead to early Alzheimer’s, dementia, diabetes and heart disease,” she said.

Biden said the lack of guidance on health issues is a frustration all older women can relate to.

“If you get together with your girlfriends or your sisters, all we talk about is health,” she said. “What are these heat waves? Why am I not sleeping? Why is my hair thinning? Why am I gaining weight, losing weight, whatever, and we need answers.’

If approved by Congress, the president’s proposed $12 billion investment would be used to create a women’s health research fund at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). His executive order, signed March 18, will boost that fund by giving the NIH $200 million to expand research on women’s sexual and reproductive issues.

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