In the third century BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle described women as “deformation.” He believed they had male genitalia”turned from the outside in” and for him and others this description explains all sorts of idiosyncratic health problems in women: women are simply the opposite, deformed, opposite of strong and healthy men.
Thousands of years later, this gender bias still persists – and has caused women’s health to suffer.
Only in 1993 whether women of childbearing age were eligible to participate in clinical trials (although they remain underrepresentedeven for products specially designed for them). At the 2015 summit. 70% of postgraduate medical trainees indicated that concepts of gender medicine – or the effects of gender in treatment, diagnosis and care – were never or only sometimes discussed or presented in their training programme. Even today, research in the life sciences and medical practice is still based on “Reference person“. There hasn’t been a similarly advanced, finished 3-D model of a “Standard Woman” until 2022.
The result is that women’s health remains understudied, misunderstood and dismissed. From 2018 only 4% of general research and development funding went to products and services specifically targeting women’s health. And 20% of women who had a negative experience with a health care provider believed it was because of their gender. Women are also diagnosed four years later than menaverage in over 750 diseases, and women’s pain is perceived as less intense than male pain.
However, despite years of entrenched bias, women’s health is starting to become a topic of conversation—and a market with huge investment potential.
One of the factors behind this growth is the size of the market. As of 2020, women spent approx 500 billion dollars annually for medical expenses, and the women’s health market is expected to continue to grow, potentially explosively 1 trillion dollars over the next five years. Women dominate healthcare in every way: they make approx 80% of household health care decisions, I live longer, spend more about health care and see health care providers more regularly than men do. But they are also willing provide unpaid medical care more often than men. Therefore, a woman’s health – and the potential of the women’s health market – affects not only her, but also those around her; if she is unhealthy, she may not have the necessary emotional, mental, or physical abilities to keep those she cares for—such as children, parents, or in-laws—also healthy.
Another factor is the relatively new, fashionable way of talking about women’s health. In 2016, Danish entrepreneur Ida Tin forged the term “FemTech” (short for “Female Technologies”) when describing her cycle tracking app, Clue. Her goal was to describe and legitimize the women’s health market and make it exciting and palatable for (mostly male) investors who may have felt uncomfortable using words like “menstruation” and “period” instead. Since then, “FemTech” has been used to designate technologies and products that address the needs of women, particularly in healthcare. For some, “FemTech” and “women’s health” are now synonymous.
The rise of this short, tight, and social media-friendly label has helped fuel both interest and investment in FemTech over the years. McKinsey & Co., for example, discovered increases in the number of articles published on startups involving investment deals and the level of funding to the FemTech space since 2008.
Echoing McKinsey’s findings, PitchBook Data also shows growth in both funded FemTech companies and dollars raised. In November 2022 data, PitchBook found that 29 women’s health and/or FemTech companies raised about $62 million in collective venture capital funding in 2015. By 2021, 110 women’s health and/or FemTech has raised about $857 million in venture capital funding.
The amount of funding going to these companies—whether they’re called women’s health companies, FemTech companies, or both—has increased over the past decade. However, it still remains insignificant compared to what is needed—and what the overall gender-neutral health care market receives. Put another way, the total funding of women’s health and/or FemTech companies collectively makes up only about 1% of the total venture capital funding that has gone to general rather than women’s-specific health companies.
As a result, there is plenty of room for advancement and almost all areas of women’s health are open to innovation and investment. Some basic options include:
Endometriosis: Worldwide, endometriosis (growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus) affects approx 10% (190 million) girls and women of reproductive age. This can lead to debilitating pain and infertility, as well as direct and indirect costs of approx $21,000 per person per year. But endometriosis still takes seven years average for diagnostics, and currently has there is no cure.
Menopause: With few exceptions, almost every woman goes through menopause and a report appreciated that the size of the menopause market is approx 600 billion dollars. But since only 20% of OB/GYNs feel comfortable discussing and treating menopause, 75% of women who seek help to manage their symptoms don’t get it.
Maternal health: The United States has the worst maternal mortality rate of any country in the developed world – and this percentage is increasing 2-3 times for black mothers. Almost, though 85% of maternal deaths are preventable. In the past few years, even the White House has noticed this trend and responded with Mother’s Day of Action and A plan to address the crisis in maternal health.
Stigmatized areas: Women’s health is often stigmatized: from postpartum depression to temporary pain, urinary tract infections to urinary incontinence. Digital health tools can allow women to receive a diagnosis, educate themselves, receive treatment or treatment options, and/or simply connect with others to learn that they are not alone in facing this potentially embarrassing and isolating health condition. condition.
Culturally sensitive care: Racial bias permeates health care, by clinical trials to patient care. Healthcare innovations that meet the unique needs—and address the fears—of a community of people can improve their likelihood of seeking care and staying healthy. A culturally sensitive approach to health care can benefit others, too: study published in 2018 found that eliminating race-based health disparities could save $135 billion a year: $93 billion in additional medical care costs and $42 billion “otherwise it hinders performance“.
While women’s health and FemTech have seen growth in the past few years, especially since the word “FemTech” was coined, they still fall short of the interest and dollars going to general health companies. Women have been dismissed and neglected for centuries: any investment and innovation in this space can have a huge impact: keeping women and their families healthy, supporting research and development, and eliminating gender bias against women and their health care, which continue to exist from Ancient Greece.
Photo: Khosrork, Gatty Images