Gretta Stone

At Reservoir we often work on women’s health issues and we know all too well that being a women’s health advocate can be an exercise in frustration. Why does it often take ten years for women to be diagnosed with endometriosis when 1 in 10 women have the condition? Why are the symptoms of heart attack so often missed in women when heart disease is the leading cause of death in women? And why has seemingly every woman been told – or know someone who has been told – her symptoms are “all in her head” or “just due to stress”? The challenges are deep-seated and stem from a lack of research and a lack of awareness.

But in 2024 I am much more hopeful than ever before because the examples above come straight from a speech given yesterday by our nation’s first lady, Dr. Jill Biden. At an event hosted by Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) she clearly articulated the challenges we’ve been grappling with for decades.

Through conversations with the tenacious Maria Shriver and the broader women’s health community, Dr. Biden became a champion of women’s health. And in the State of the Union address earlier this year President Joe Biden called for $12 billion in new funding for women’s health research and followed this with a broad executive order to advance and prioritize research on women’s health across federal research and budgets.

As a long-time board member and current chair of SWHR it has been thrilling and gratifying to see these big moves and the palpable new momentum. Tonight we’ll certainly celebrate this moment at the Society’s annual awards gala with a packed house and a champagne toast.

However, we are clear-eyed. We know that the hard work is just beginning; the ball is rolling but the road ahead is filled with bumps and dead ends. Turning calls for funding – even those from the president of the United States – into actual funding is an uphill battle. And ensuring funding turns into valuable research and real change is a multi-year or a multi-decade process.

Knowing this, we are glad to have so many committed champions of women’s health. The women’s health community is strong, determined and more aligned than ever. We are committed to progress and to bringing it to all women, including women of color who have often been left behind in the past. In addition, leaders across the broader patient community, across academia, across industry recognize that so many diseases uniquely, differently or disproportionately impact women, from Alzheimer’s to autoimmune diseases to many cancers and beyond. Now is the time for us all to be women’s health advocates.