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Research Questions

  1. What are the socioeconomic impacts of increasing investment in women's health research for lung cancer?
  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 lung cancer. Women are disproportionately represented among nonsmokers with lung cancer. Nonsmoking men represent just 2 percent to 6 percent of total lung cancer cases among men, but nonsmoking women represent approximately 20 percent of cases among women. 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

  • Doubling the investment in women's health research could yield an expected ROI of over 1200 percent for the U.S. population age 25 and older, for health improvements of 0.1 percent in mortality and incidence and 0.01 percent in quality-adjusted life years.
  • More than 22,700 years with lung cancer can be saved across 30 years, with substantial gains in health-related quality of life.
  • Approximately 2,500 more labor years valued at $45 million in labor productivity could result from increased work time and longer life.

The return on investment is nearly 1,300 percent for doubled investment in women's health research, even with only a small percentage improvement in health outcomes

Recommendations

  • Expand the research agenda on sex and gender and lung cancer to study the unknown interactions of sex and gender with lung cancer etiology, risk factors, and disease progression to inform treatment and prevention research.
  • Also examine the understudied interactions of gender and race with lung cancer risk, health care, and disease progression. Examine obstacles to access to and use of diagnostic technology, including for personalized medicine.
  • Raise awareness of differences between the lung cancer 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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