“We know better, now we need to do better”—these words were heard numerous times during the Capitol Hill briefing on women’s health and performance, which was hosted by Momentous and the Congressional Servicewomen & Women Veterans Caucus. The event was designed to help raise awareness of the many inequalities that still exist for women in the military, sport, and the health and wellness sector. Momentous co-founder and COO Erica Good opened the event, which was attended by a number of world-renowned experts from academia, elite sport, and the military, all coming together with one common goal—to bring about lasting change. Congressional representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Jen Kiggans (R-VA) both spoke at the event, adding their voices to the call for improved access and funding for women.
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. Female researchers receive about half the grant funding of their male counterparts, and women participants are historically under-represented in clinical trials. These gaps are even wider for 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.
At Momentous, we are passionate about helping everyone be their best and we believe everyone has the right to pursue their potential. There is still plenty of work to be done when it comes to achieving equality and we are committed to playing our part in achieving that.
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As a human performance company our mission is to democratize the products, knowledge, and guidance needed for anyone to thrive and perform at their best. As part of executing on this mission, we work closely with the Department of Defense: We currently have 10 different research contracts exploring nutritional interventions for reducing injuries, improving cognition, and enhancing performance. This partnership has afforded us unique access to the legislators driving healthcare policy—and it is here that we want to continue raising awareness of the gender health gap.
The Capitol Hill briefing brought together a group of world-leading experts, including women such as exercise physiologist Dr. Stacy Sims; Major Shaye Haver, one of the first women to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School; Kristen Holmes, VP of Performance Science at Whoop; Juliet Starrett, CEO and founder of The Ready State; professional cyclist Alison Tetrick; and academic Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan. The briefing itself included three different panels, which focused on the female experience as it relates to health and wellness, athletic performance, and the military.
Among the topics covered were:
- Understanding that women have different hormonal profiles than men, and those profiles shift throughout their lifespan;
- The lack of access to female-specific equipment, technology, and research that causes girls and young women to drop out of sports early or fail to perform to their potential—and the far-reaching implications for this in the military;
- The clinical implications of lack of menstrual cycle knowledge and the dangers of the perceived/real social discomfort of addressing this topic;
- 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 topics;
- 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. This includes:
- Improved access and education based on current research on female health and performance;
- Improved collaboration across all branches of the military on the topic of female health and performance;
- Improved funding for future research on female health and performance using female participants.
The following people took part in the briefing:
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 SchoolColonel Chad Kahl, Physician to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff