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Research Questions

  1. What are the socioeconomic impacts of increasing investment in women's health research for CAD?
  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 research on coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD was chosen partly because physiological differences between men and women affect factors that relate to the development and progression of cardiovascular disease. 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 returns result from very small health improvements

  • Assuming health improvements of 0.01 percent or less in terms of age incidence, mortality, and quality of life for the U.S. population age 25 and older, more than 53,000 years with CAD can be saved across 30 years, with substantial gains in health-related quality of life.
  • Almost 12,000 more years (and $236 million) can be saved in terms of labor productivity, both from higher labor and earnings from having fewer years of CAD and more years alive.

The return on investment is 9,500 percent for doubled investment in women's health research, even with only 0.01 percent improvement in health outcomes

  • Investing in women's health research for CAD yields benefits similar to investing in general research, with improved health-related quality of life for women from women-focused research.


  • Expand the research agenda on sex and gender and CAD to study the unknown interactions of sex and gender with cardiovascular disease antecedents and disease progression to inform treatment and prevention research.
  • Also examine the understudied interactions of gender and race with cardiovascular disease risk, health care, and disease progression (in particular, examining obstacles to access to and use of medical provider visits, prescription drugs, and relevant devices).
  • Raise awareness of differences between the CAD course for women and men, as well as the potential for investment to improve disease outcomes and societal impact.
  • Raise awareness among the business community of the potential ROI for women's health research, particularly for women in the workforce.

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 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.

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