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Research Questions

  1. What are the socioeconomic impacts of increasing investment in women's health research for AD/ADRD?
  2. What amount of investment can yield societal gains, and how can this information inform research funders, policymakers, and business leaders in addressing return on investment for research funding?

Women's health has suffered from insufficient research addressing women. The research community has not widely embraced the value of this research, and the impact of limited knowledge about women's health relative to men's is far-reaching. Without information on the potential return on investment for women's health research, research funders, policymakers, and business leaders lack a basis for altering research investments to improve knowledge of women's health.

As part of an initiative of the Women's Health Access Matters (WHAM) nonprofit foundation, RAND Corporation researchers examined the impact of increasing funding for women's health, beginning with a focus on Alzheimer's disease and Alzheimer's disease–related dementias (AD/ADRD), which result in substantial illness burden, health care costs, caregiving burden, and mortality. In this report, the authors present the results of microsimulation models used to explore the potential for enhanced investment in women's health research, in terms of the economic well-being of women and for the U.S. population.

Key Findings

Large societal gains may be possible from small health improvements associated with increasing investment in women's health research on AD/ADRD

  • Investing in women's health research on AD/ADRD yields benefits beyond investing in general research.

Large returns result from very small health improvements associated with investment in women's health research

  • Assuming 0.01 percent improvement in health from small reductions in age incidence and AD/ADRD disease severity, more than 6,000 years with AD/ADRD can be saved across 30 years, with substantial gains in health-related quality of life; nursing home costs could drop by more than $360 million; and the return on investment is 224 percent for doubling investment in women's health research.

Recommendations

  • Direct additional research funds toward women's health within AD/ADRD. The potential for improved return on investment for research directed at women's health relative to general health research makes such an investment valuable from a societal perspective.
  • Establish research agendas that expand beyond existing work to permit the identification of unstudied and understudied relationships between AD/ADRD in women and other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.
  • Increase outreach to multiple research disciplines to raise awareness of the current limitations of knowledge about women and AD/ADRD and of the potential for research to yield benefits for women and for society. Among factors to examine are the ways in which women's research careers are disadvantaged relative to men's because of family factors, such as a differential caregiving burden for women, and because of systemic factors, such as an implicit and explicit bias against women in health research.
  • Increase outreach to the business community to raise awareness of the potential return on investment for women's health research. Raising awareness among business leaders is critical to ensuring a market pull for research, which is necessary for the viability of women's health research agendas and funding.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by Women's Health Access Matters and conducted by the Social and Behavioral Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.