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Congressional Briefing Addressing the Gender Health Gap
Next Ventures joins Momentous and the Center for a New American Security to host a panel of world-leading experts on women’s health and performance.
When women thrive, society thrives. Research has shown time and time again that healthier women drive better outcomes for families, organizations and communities. And yet there is a pervasive gap in education, access and funding directly addressing the specific health and performance challenges women face.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health spent $45B on biomedical research in 2022 alone, yet only 15% of this budget was allocated to women’s health. Women researchers receive about half the grant funding of their male research counterparts, and women participants are historically under-represented in clinical trials. These gaps are even wider for Trans, Black, Hispanic and American Indian and Alaska Native women, as well as women with disabilities, who face the full gamut of intersectional barriers preventing access to quality care.
We founded Next Ventures over four years ago, with the mission of enabling people to live more healthy and capable lives through equitable access to whole person health innovation. Our thesis by definition is holistic — we look at the areas within a person’s life where there’s the most friction preventing optimal health and happiness, and seek out founders solving those points of friction.
This approach has led us to partner with some incredible founders. Momentous is a human performance company founded by Jeff Byers and Erica Good, built on a mission to democratize the products, knowledge and guidance needed for anyone to thrive and perform at their best. As part of executing on this mission, they have been working closely with the Department of Defense on six research contracts exploring nutritional interventions for reducing injuries, improving cognition, and enhancing performance. This partnership gives Momentous unique access to the legislators driving healthcare policy.
In an effort to address the gap in funding, research and representation needed to drive better outcomes for women, we recently collaborated with the Momentous team this September to bring a group of world-leading experts to Washington DC. Our partners in this effort were the Center for a New American Security, an independent, bipartisan research and policy organization working to inform and prepare national security leaders for today and tomorrow. And our sponsors on Capitol Hill were the Servicewomen and Women’s Veteran Caucus, created in May 2023 to address the issues women face during and after active duty.
The goal of our briefing was to bridge the women’s health and performance knowledge gap for policymakers, their staff and members of the public. We designed the briefing to be intentionally cross-disciplinary, with experts from healthcare, sports, fitness and the military addressing how the gender gap has impacted their lives, careers, teams and patients. The discussion addressed:
Understanding that women have different hormonal profiles, and those profiles shift throughout their lifespan.
The clinical implications of lack of menstrual cycle knowledge and the dangers of the perceived/real social discomfort of addressing this topic.
The lack of access to women’s specific equipment, technology and research that causes girls and young women to drop out of sports early or fail to perform to their potential.
Research showing a strong positive correlation between sports and leadership for young women.
Creating requirements for leaders, coaches, doctors, and trainers to be certified in women's health and wellness considerations.
Leveraging the large datasets available in the public sector (i.e. wearables) to better inform healthcare research.
Each of our panelists is committed to this work long-term, and we are encouraged by the commitment from over 20 members of Congress to do the same as a result of our briefing. This includes:
Improving access and distillation of current women’s health and performance research, for ease of utilization by policymakers. This specifically must include information and existing science on female physiology and hormones.
Creating an interdisciplinary taskforce to drive collaboration across all stakeholders to improve speed and strength of outcomes. This includes the three federal branches, state and local governments, public research institutions and private sector companies.
Grant creation to improve funding for research on women’s health and performance, prioritizing NIH dollars dedicated to projects targeting women participants, led by women researchers.
We are grateful for the communicated commitments and will be sure to track actionable progress on this front.
A big thank you to everyone who participated. For those who would like to contribute to this work moving forward, a few thoughts: Follow and support the leaders below. Invest in founders and companies addressing these issues. And add your voice and expertise to this effort, as we take this group of experts on the road to other forums engaged in solving the gender health gap. Email firstname.lastname@example.org – we would love to hear from you.
Health and Wellness:
Kristen Holmes, VP of Performance Science at Whoop
Dr. Chimsom Oleka, Pediatric, Adolescent and Athlete Gynecologist
Dr. Stacy Sims, Exercise Physiologist and Nutrition Scientist
Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan, Professor of Exercise Physiology and Nutrition at UNC
Juliet Starrett, CEO and Founder The Ready State
Dr. Jen Wagner, Founder and CEO of Prosper, former Stanford physician
Dr. Gauri Desai, Postdoctoral Research Associate at University of Maryland
Dr. Katherine Rizzone, NCAA and U.S. Rowing National Team Physician
Stef Strack, Founder and CEO Voice in Sport
Alison Tetrick, Professional Cyclist and Athlete Advisor for USOPC and USA Cycling
Rachel Vickery, High Performance Director and International Gymnast
Kelsey Bailey, Performance Dietician
Dr. Sharon Bannister, Former U.S. Air Force Major General
Patrick Dixon, Director of Applied Science at Momentous
Major Shaye Haver, One of the First Women to Graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School
Colonel Chad Kahl, Physician to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff