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November Policy Roundup

Women's Health Policy

1. HealthyWomen supports Covid-19 vaccines for kids

When the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met in early November to consider recommending approval of the Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, HealthyWomen was there. Senior Policy Advisor Martha Nolan offered comments addressing the importance of Covid-19 vaccines, especially as they relate to children. "Children need access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines to reestablish a safe environment where they can once again learn, play and socialize without fear of serious illness," she said. HealthyWomen is a convener of the Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, a coalition of more than 220 organizations dedicated to providing trustworthy information about Covid-19 vaccines This coalition urged ACIP to provide clear guidance on the use of Covid-19 vaccines in children.

2. HealthyWomen leaders participated in a sex and gender health education summit

American Medical Women's Association hosted a three-day virtual Sex and Gender Health Education Summit in mid-November 2021 to discuss the intersectionality of sex, gender, race and social determinants of health. HealthyWomen was a supporter and a participant at this meeting. Dr. Monica Mallampalli, HealthyWomen senior scientific advisor, served on the executive planning committee, as a poster committee co-chair, and host of a virtual poster session and oral poster presentations. In addition, Our CEO Beth Battaglino hosted a panel called "Flipped Exam Room: Patients Educating the Educators."

3. New state-level data shed light on women's health around the country

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a women's health dashboard with a wide range of data, including population statistics broken down by age group, race and ethnicity, and poverty level, as well as details about women's health insurance coverage, access to healthcare providers and health status. The data highlights state-level differences. For example, 19% of adult women overall reported being in fair or poor health, but in Alabama that figure was 24% and in Colorado it was 14%.

4. An FDA panel recommends adults under age 60 get vaccinated for hepatitis B

In early November 2021, ACIP voted unanimously to recommend that all U.S. adults under age 60 get vaccinated against hepatitis B, a viral liver infection transmitted through bodily fluids. As many as 2.2 million people in the United States may be living with hepatitis B, which can cause acute and chronic illness. Hepatitis B vaccination became standard for children in the early 1990s so most adults under 30 have already been vaccinated. The recommendation must be approved by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky before it becomes official policy.

5. A new $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill harbors good news for health care

On November 15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill, the "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act." Though infrastructure often conjures images of roads and bridges, it can also be significant for health care. This bill includes billions of dollars to strengthen and expand access to the nation's high-speed internet services, which are essential for accessing telehealth. The bill funds internet service vouchers for low-income families and expands broadband benefits temporarily put in place in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

6. The FDA strengthens warnings about breast implants

In late October 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidance to strengthen its communication of the risks associated with breast implants. Specifically, the FDA is restricting the sale and distribution of breast implants to only healthcare providers (HCPs) who provide specific information to support patients' informed decision-making. Patients must be presented with a decision checklist, to be signed by both the patient and the HCP. These changes follow guidance issued in September 2020 to improve warnings and education to help patients make decisions.

7. New research confirms low to moderate caffeine intake can be safe during pregnancy

A new study published this month showed that women with low and moderate caffeine intake early in the second trimester of pregnancy had lower risk of gestational diabetes than women who consumed no caffeine. The study showed that there was no association between caffeine and gestational hypertension (high blood pressure) or preeclampsia. Current recommendations are for pregnant women to consume less than 200 mg of caffeine per day during pregnancy. This study confirms that current guidelines for caffeine intake can be safe for women in their second trimester of pregnancy.

8. Ovary removal can lead to cognitive impairments later, new study shows

Having both ovaries removed before age 46 increases the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) decades later, according to new research published this month. The study looked at nearly 3,000 women ages 50 to 89 who underwent premenopausal ovary removal. Researchers found that these women were likely to perform worse on cognitive tests than women who had not had both ovaries removed. Ovary removal is typically done to reduce risks of ovarian and breast cancer. These findings may help women with average risk of ovarian cancer and their HCPs evaluate the risks and benefits of ovary removal.

9. A new study shows the type of fat, rather than the amount, matters to heart health

The amount of fat you eat is less important to your heart health than the type of fat you ingest, according to new data presented at an American Heart Association forum. Researchers found that eating more animal fat increases risk of stroke, while plant-based fats, such as avocados and nuts, reduce those risks. The findings come from nearly three decades of data from two large, long-running studies of healthcare professionals.

10. A drug used to prevent miscarriages may increase cancer risks later in life

Babies who were exposed in utero to 17-OHPC — a drug used to prevent miscarriages — were found to have increased rates of cancer later in life, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Offspring exposed to this drug between 1959 and 1966 had higher rates of cancer than those who were not exposed. Though the drug is no longer used the same way it was in the 1960s, a version of it is still used to lower risks of preterm birth in some women.