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Advancing Women's Health: A Call to Action

The world of women's health is amid a remarkable revolution. From innovative solutions for incontinence and pelvic floor disorders to remote maternal monitoring and advanced hormone tracking for infertility and menopause, diagnostics for endometriosis and more, the progress is both encouraging and essential. It's an exciting time, filled with promise and potential, but also a critical moment to reflect on the work that still needs to be done.

The Rise of Femtech

The FemTech sector is at the forefront of this transformation. This industry, dedicated to developing technology and products specifically for women's health, is experiencing rapid growth. These innovative startups and companies are tackling everything from period tracking and fertility to menopause, sexual wellness, and cancer care. With the market projected to soar to $50 billion by 2025, FemTech empowers women to take charge of their health like never before.

Investment in Women's Health

The momentum is building, with major players taking notice. The NYSE's annual Investors in Women's Health event and the Biden Administration's groundbreaking Women's Health Research Initiative are prime examples of the growing support for women's health policy at the highest levels.

The NYSE event, which took place in Manhattan in May, seeks to increase investment in women's health. First Lady Jill Biden, who spoke at the summit, highlighted the lack of focused treatment options for women, stating, "Women's health is understudied and research is underfunded. As a result, too many of our medications, treatments, health products, and medical school textbooks are based on men." She emphasized the need to build a healthcare system where women are a first thought, not an afterthought, and where they can lead long, healthy, and happy lives.

The Biden Administration's Women's Health Research Initiative is another women's health policy game-changer. This initiative aims to fundamentally change how we approach and fund women's health research in the United States. As part of this effort, President Biden has called on Congress to make a transformative investment of $12 billion in new funding for women's health research, which would be used to create a Fund for Women's Health Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and establish a nationwide network of research centers of excellence and innovation in women's health.

And, just this week, Melinda French Gates announced her intention to donate $1 billion to “people and organizations working on behalf of women and families around the world, including on reproductive rights in the US”. 

Addressing Critical Gaps

But amid the progress, we can't ignore the harsh realities. The US maternal mortality rate is a sobering reminder of the work ahead, placing the US at 24th behind western and other less developed countries,, with Black women bearing a disproportionate burden — they're 2.5 times more likely to die during childbirth compared to white women. It's a heartbreaking disparity that demands urgent action.

And it's not just about the moment of birth. Half of our counties are "OB deserts," leaving countless women without access to the obstetric care they need. These gaps are more than just statistics. They represent real women and families facing unacceptable barriers to health and well-being.

The inequities extend beyond reproductive health, too. Women are more likely to die from a heart attack compared with men and spend more time in their elder years in bad health. Moreover, Black women are more likely to face chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, a stark reminder of the broader health disparities that persist. LGBTQ+ women often encounter barriers to culturally competent care, leading to poorer health outcomes. It's a system failing too many women, and it's time for change.

Promising Developments

Despite these challenges, there have been significant legislative and funding developments aimed at improving women's health:

  • Medicaid Expansion: Congress has passed a bill allowing states to extend Medicaid coverage to postpartum women for up to one year. This legislation is crucial for supporting new mothers and addressing long-term health complications.

  • Breast Cancer Screening: Pr​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​oposed legislation aims to ensure that women with dense breast tissue can access additional screening tools without additional costs when their mammogram results are inconclusive.

  • Menopause Research: New proposed legislation promotes and supports research into menopause. This critical area has been underfunded and under-researched.

  • ARPA-H Sprint for Women's Health: The White House has approved $100 million for the ARPA-H Sprint for Women's Health, designed to accelerate the development and market entry of evidence-based women's health solutions.

  • Economic Impact of Research: Studies show that doubling the federal budget for women's health research, particularly in areas such as Alzheimer's, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases, could potentially add $14 billion to the US economy.

Be Part of the Change

While policy plays a significant role, there are a number of opportunities to get involved in advancing women's health, including:

1. Support FemTech Startups: The FemTech industry is at the forefront of addressing women's unique health needs. Investing in or supporting these innovative startups can drive the development of groundbreaking solutions and bring much-needed products to market faster. By backing FemTech entrepreneurs, you can help accelerate the pace of progress in women's health.

2. Participate in Research: Encouraging participation in clinical trials and research studies ensures that women's health needs are adequately represented and addressed.

3. Educate and Raise Awareness: Knowledge is power, and sharing information about women's health issues and disparities is vital in driving change. By educating yourself and others about the challenges women face in accessing quality healthcare, you can help raise awareness and build community support for necessary policy changes. Start conversations, share resources, and advocate for women's health in your networks and beyond.

4. Join Health Initiatives: Participate in or support initiatives and organizations dedicated to improving women's health.

5. Inform yourself and vote:  Support candidates that support legislative changes that benefit women's health.

6. Support the Women's Health PAC: A bipartisan Women's Health PAC has been formed to educate the public, elected officials, and candidates about the importance of women's health issues. The PAC supports legislative efforts, policies, and candidates that aim to improve healthcare for women, ensuring a unified and powerful voice advocating for necessary changes.

Together, We Can

This isn't just about women's health. It's about creating a healthier, more equitable world for all of us. By investing in women's health, supporting innovation, advocating for change, and raising our collective voice, we can make a real difference. So, let's roll up our sleeves and get to work. Together, we can build a brighter, healthier future for women everywhere.

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