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Maria Shriver talks teaming with Jill Biden to push for gender equity in medical research: It's not political, it's a 'human issue'

Maria Shriver says her work toward gender equity in medical research is a “human issue,” not a political one.

“I don’t see it as partisan at all because there are Republican women serving. Republican men came from Republican women,” Shriver said. 

“I don’t even look at it as a political issue. I look at it as a human issue,” said the NBC News correspondent and founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) Prevention and Research Center at Cleveland Clinic.

Jill Biden joined Shriver and leading researchers Wednesday at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in downtown Washington to spotlight improving women’s health research.

Biden recalled how she and Shriver met at the White House and how California’s former first lady “laid out a problem that was so simple, but so often ignored: That women’s health is understudied and research is underfunded. And too many of our medications, our treatments and medical school textbooks are based on men.”

“This has created gaps of conditions of our understanding of conditions that mostly affect women, only affect women or affect men and women differently, leaving women seeking health care in a medical world largely designed for men,” Biden told the audience. 

Shriver told ITK her aim is to change the conversation around women’s health care. It’s a mission she discovered after first focusing on Alzheimer’s disease — and learning it disproportionately impacts women — following the diagnosis of her father, Sargent Shriver, in 2003.

“Looking at what was happening for women at mid-life,” Shriver said, “there was no research, there were no facts, there was no roadmap.” 

In his State of the Union address in March, President Biden touted the launch of the first-ever White House initiative on women’s health research, calling on Congress to pass his $12 billion plan to “transform women’s health research and benefit millions of lives across America.”

Now, Shriver said, it’s up to Congress to “give us the $12 billion that the president asked for,” which can “rectify the decades of lack of research.”

Lawmakers, Shriver said, can “level up the playing field because that’s what we need.”

Shriver, the 68-year-old niece of the late President John F. Kennedy, added, “We’re 51 percent of the population, and women’s health concerns and health issues are different.”

“So we need to really understand fundamentally that men and women are different, and therefore it’s not that women are more important, but we just haven’t studied women the way we studied men.”

At Wednesday’s event hosted by WAM and the Society of Women’s Health Research, Shriver helped award grants to researchers whose “innovative work will further address the disproportionate impact of Alzheimer’s disease on women by examining the role of a woman’s unique biology, genetics and lifestyle.” WAM at Cleveland Clinic has funded more than $5 million for 48 studies over the years, according to the group.

In 2018, Shriver revealed that she had switched her voter registration from Democrat to independent, saying at the time that the “divisive nature of our politics was always problematic” for her.

Shriver said she’s still an independent, “For me, it’s been a way to have conversations with members of all parties in a different way.”

“People always think I’m a Democrat,” she said. But in conversations with medical researchers and doctors, Shriver said, she’s not interested in “what their political opinion is.”

“I’m really adamant about focusing on things that we agree on, as opposed to what we disagree on,” she said. 

Shriver praised the president at an event last month, saying that he’s someone who “respects” women and understands them. Asked what it would mean for women if Biden doesn’t win reelection in November against former President Trump, Shriver replied, “I think it’ll be tough.”

Shriver commended Biden for signing an executive order expanding government initiatives focused on women’s health, including $200 million in new funding, calling it “historic and transformative.”

“If you want to see that continue,” Shriver said, “you have to vote for people local, statewide and federally who also believe in righting that situation and leveling that playing field.”

“My theme is always how do we move ourselves and humanity forward?” Shriver said. “We don’t do where we just move one party forward. And so I’m really adamant in everything I do to try to talk about how do we come together, and how do we move an issue up the hill together.”


Source: The Hill

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