CMS OMH Marks Women’s Health Week with A Call to Action

CMS OMH Marks Women’s Health Week with A Call to Action

Federal officials are marking National Women’s Health Week with a call for awareness and reform to address stubborn disparities that have lingered historically – and to this day lead to poorer medical outcomes.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) noted that the week-long event begins on Mother’s Day each year, followed by comprehensive efforts to encourage women and girls to prioritize their health and help them optimize it.

“Women comprise more than half our population, but women’s health is understudied, and its research is vastly underfunded. Too many of our medications, treatments, and textbooks are instead based on men’s needs,” a White House Proclamation by President Biden issued last week reads. “As a result, women spend more of their lives in poor health – too often having their symptoms dismissed, leaving medical appointments with more questions than answers, or waiting years to get the diagnosis and treatment they need. During National Women’s Health Week, we commit to changing that by investing in women’s health, closing the research gap, and getting every woman in this country access to the affordable, quality health care that she deserves.”

Biden pointed to the 2023 launch of the first-ever White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research as being illustrative of the Administration’s commitment, noting that the effort began with an investment of $200 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), specifically for research on women’s health. It came with a call for Congress to deliver $12 billion more to accelerate the work.

“These investments will spur much-needed research into conditions that affect women uniquely, like menopause and endometriosis, or that affect women differently or at higher rates, like heart disease and Alzheimer’s.  Further, I issued the most comprehensive set of executive actions ever to expand and improve research on women’s health, ensuring that women’s health gets integrated and prioritized across Federal agencies,” Biden’s Proclamation said. “These actions will galvanize new research on a wide range of topics and help prevent, diagnose, and treat women’s health conditions once and for all. Meanwhile, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health is investing $100 million in its first-ever ‘Sprint for Women’s Health’ to radically accelerate the next generation of discoveries.”

CMS OMH noted in its own announcement that heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., with more than 60 million women living with some form of the disease. In 2021, a total of 22.6 percent of deaths of Black women were attributed to heart disease, officials said, compared to 18 percent of deaths in White women.

“Aside from these racial disparities in chronic diseases, social, economic, and environmental factors all affect the ways women experience and access preventive care, like health screenings,” the Office said in a statement. “In 2021, only 67.5 percent of women ages 50-74 with lower incomes reported recent breast cancer screenings, compared to 78.7 percent of women with higher incomes in the same age range. Furthermore, White women with Medicare fee-for-service have the highest breast cancer screening rate (35%), compared with Black (32%), Asian American/Pacific Islander (25%), Hispanic (22%), and American Indian/Alaska Native enrollees (21%).”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Women’s Health is marking the occasion with its own campaign, titled “Empowering Women, Cultivating Health: Celebrating Voices, Wellness, and Resilience.” The Office is marking Women’s Health Week with a different theme for every day of the week, from Empowering Women in Their Health Journey (Sunday) to Safe Sexual Health, Shining a Light on Maternal Mental Health, Reducing Women’s Health Stigma, Understanding Care Is There, Reproductive Health from Puberty to Menopause and Beyond, and Women and Heart Health. To review background and access resources on all of these topics, go online to https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwhw.

Additional Resources

The CMS OMH Coverage to Care (C2C) Women Preventive Services flyer, available in nine languages, to help women learn about preventive services available to them at no cost under most health coverage, is available online here, along with the Roadmap To Better Care, which explains how to access primary care and preventive services: https://www.cms.gov/priorities/health-equity/c2c.

Read through the Breast Cancer Screening Disparities in Medicare Beneficiaries data snapshot to learn about racial and geographic disparities in breast cancer screenings among Medicare enrollees: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/bcs-october2022-datasnapshot.pdf.

Rural Maternal Health Care resources, including Advancing Rural Maternal Health Equity, A Conversation on Maternal Health Care in Rural Communities, and Improving Access to Maternal Health Care in Rural Communities, to learn how CMS is working to improve maternal health outcomes for women in rural areas, are available here: https://www.cms.gov/priorities/health-equity/rural-health.

Visit the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) Office on Women’s Health website to explore National Women’s Health Week resources: https://www.womenshealth.gov/.

View the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health website to learn about the latest in women’s health research: https://orwh.od.nih.gov/.

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Mark Spivey

Mark Spivey is a national correspondent for RACmonitor.com, ICD10monitor.com, and Auditor Monitor who has been writing and editing material about the federal oversight of American healthcare for more than a decade.

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