Women’s Health Curricula: Final Report on Expert Panel Recommendations for Interprofessional Collaboration across the Health Professions
Improved inclusion of women’s health education among a growing cadre of health professionals is a key task for the coming decade. Today, experts in the field of women’s health define the discipline as a product of cultural, social, and psychological factors in addition to biology (Verdonk, Benschop, de Haes, & Lagro-Janssen, 2009). Independent approaches to improve women’s health curricula can promote advances in the field. However, women’s health education would also benefit from a collaborative effort to create a broader agenda for women’s health curricula.
In response to this need, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Office of Women’s Health (OWH) commissioned this report to provide the background, recommendations, and implementation steps to improve women’s health education across five specific health professions programs: medicine, oral health/dentistry, baccalaureate nursing, pharmacy, and public health. Both women’s health and interprofessional collaboration are top priorities in health education, and improvements may contribute to dramatic health benefits across the population.
Three expert panel meetings were convened with 15 women’s health experts to provide key content areas and implementation steps to incorporate growing interest in women’s health curriculum improvement and interprofessional collaboration into the institutional mission. In addition, a comprehensive literature review and in-depth interviews with experts in women’s health supports the recommendations and development of this report. This report was developed as a result of the recommendations from the three expert panel meetings.
The purpose of the study was: 1) to summarize recent literature on women’s health curricula across health professions; 2) to identify key strategies for interprofessional collaboration in women’s health curricula, with an emphasis on concrete actions; and 3) to develop a dissemination plan to share findings from the report and create greater awareness of women’s health education needs.
The report highlights a model for women’s health content, outlining five key content areas and three theoretical perspectives. Key content areas in women’s health across the health professions include wellness and prevention, biological considerations, selected conditions, behavioral health, and the role of the health professional. Across the health professions, key examples of conditions that are disproportionately found among women or for which the diagnosis or treatment may differ from men are highlighted. Additionally, the three theoretical perspectives—social determinants of health, lifespan approach, and cultural considerations— offer potential ways to approach topic in courses.