in knowledge may assist policymakers in planning future research initiatives and in interagency coordination.

Thus, in 1996, the Office for Research on Women's Health, National Institutes of Health (NIH), requested that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) conduct a workshop study to review the current research programs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that are devoted to women's health. The purpose of this activity was to identify the state of knowledge regarding gender differences in susceptibility to environmental factors and make recommendations about promising areas of inquiry that may profit from interagency coordination.

In response to this request, the IOM formed a Committee on Gender Differences in Susceptibility to Environmental Factors. The committee included experts in environmental and occupational health and medicine, health sciences policy, epidemiology and public health, risk assessment, endocrinology, immunology, toxicology, and women's health. The committee met twice during the course of the study and held a scientific workshop in May 1997.

ORGANIZING MEETING

The first meeting of the committee had three purposes:

  1. Review the charge of the committee. The phrase "gender differences" implies assessing differences and similarities between men and women; however, discussions with relevant agency representatives indicated a need to focus on women's unique susceptibility. Therefore, the committee refined its charge to focus on this latter aspect: that is, the identification of areas in which research and policy initiatives could address women's differential susceptibility to environmental factors.

  2. Review the existing research related to the topic of the study. The committee reviewed a variety of materials related to environmental health research, gender differences, and environmental susceptibility. An abbreviated list of these materials, resources, and sources of information is in Table 1.

TABLE 1 Types of Information Received from Sponsoring Agencies and Reviewed by the Committee

Review of Scientific Literature

Relevant IOM/NRC Reports (see Table 2)

Agency Mission Statements and Program Overviews

Agency Strategic Planning Materials

Agency Abstracts of Active Research Projects



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