This Sunday marks the beginning of National Women’s Health Week. This is an opportunity to honor the importance of women across America and renew our pledge to support their health and wellbeing.
Women are integral members of our families and communities who can face unique healthcare challenges. Whether breast cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s, my Administration is committed to continue addressing women’s health through advancements in medical research, rapid reviews and approvals of new safe and effective therapies, and affordable treatments and care options.
The ongoing opioid crisis is of particular concern for women. On average, 115 Americans die each day from opioid-related overdoses—a factor that has contributed to the decrease in life expectancy over the past two years. The crisis has hit women particularly hard in part because they are more likely to suffer from chronic pain conditions for which opioids are often prescribed. Since 1999, the rate of deaths among women from prescription opioid overdoses have increased 461 percent. Remarkably, more American women aged 15-35 lost their lives to accidental opioid overdose in 2016 than to all cancers combined.
These harrowing statistics underscore the urgent need to save American lives and why my Administration declared the opioid crisis a nation-wide public health emergency. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed a comprehensive strategy to combat the opioid epidemic and enhance non-addictive pain treatments by working with medical experts, policymakers, community groups, and families who have experienced the tragedy of opioid addiction. Through these partnerships, the HHS Office of Women’s Health has awarded 20 grants to public and private organizations that are on the frontlines of the opioid crisis.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has also published guidance for treating pregnant women and new mothers with opioid use disorder, a critical resource for the Nation’s hardworking medical professionals. It is vital for the wellbeing of our Nation that we support those who are suffering from drug addiction as well as all expecting and postpartum mothers. Similarly, the National Institutes of Health is engaging in research regarding interventions to help both the mothers and infants born to women with opioid use disorder.
My Administration is also committed to supporting our working families. Through robust tax reform, we championed a doubled Child Tax Credit to ensure parents can adequately support their children. We are also focused on expanding access to paid family leave benefits for new mothers and fathers. The new reality is that in more than 60% of the homes of American married couples with children, both parents work. Additionally, women are now the primary earners in more than 40% of all families. Today, however, only 12% of private-sector workers have access to formal paid leave through their employers. Recent research suggests that women’s labor force participation in the U.S. has stalled due to the lack of family-friendly policies, including paid leave. There is a critical need to ensure that working mothers and fathers have access to paid family leave, which can support women’s participation in the labor force and promote greater financial stability for American families. Additionally, and in part to have a long-term effect on women’s health, I recently signed an Executive Order to expand access to sports, fitness, and nutrition, with a specific focus on helping girls from economically challenged communities live active and healthy lifestyles.
During this week, we reaffirm our Nation’s commitment to women and girls across America, and we continue to encourage them to put their health first. When women prosper, so do our families, our communities, and our entire Nation.