From the Director
Research Activities, July 2012, No. 383
It wasn't long ago that women's health was primarily concerned with reproductive issues and our understanding and treatment of women's conditions came from research on men—their anatomy and drug interactions.
In the 21st century, far more research is being done to identify which groups of patients—including women—will benefit from which kind of treatment. AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program is taking a lead role in the field of patient-centered outcomes research to help providers and patients figure out which drug, medical device, test, or surgery is best for an individual.
This year, the Program posted comparative effectiveness reviews on two topics that overwhelmingly affect women and that are the kind of problems most of us wouldn't wish upon anyone—urinary incontinence and chronic pelvic pain.
In the case of urinary incontinence, the research confirmed what will be good news for thousands of women: In many cases, pelvic floor muscle training can help a woman improve her symptoms or, better yet, become continent. For chronic pelvic pain, we outlined research gaps to help support future research into diagnosis of the problem and comparisons of treatment options.
As with most of our Effective Health Care Program's comparative effectiveness reviews, we shared the results through research summaries with scales of evidence for clinicians. Companion consumer guides are written in plain language—whether that language is English or Spanish. Patients with urinary incontinence can review charts with pictures that clearly compare how different treatments work. Summaries for both conditions include questions that women can ask their providers. This will be particularly helpful for women with chronic pelvic pain, because diagnosing the cause can be a laborious process involving many providers.
Topics for future patient-centered outcomes research for women include women and heart disease and menopause symptoms and treatments. We hope our findings help women find the best treatments for their conditions. If the research helps men, too, that's all the better.
Carolyn Clancy, M.D.