The Women’s Health Innovation Summit is a 2-day summit to bring together the leaders and innovators in the women’s health and FemTech space to accelerate the industry’s development. It took place in Europe for the first time and has confirmed our assumption: Women’s health is not a niche.
This is especially noticeable in the countless personal stories. Many speakers shared their personal health stories that gave them the strength and ambition to develop their innovations. I learned that many of the products and services presented or discussed throughout the event resulted from the inventor’s frustration of finding themselves in situations where they didn’t get the care they needed, and/or their health issues were dismissed. Unfortunately, this is widespread among women and people with vaginas.
Facts & Figures that left an impression
Following are 7 facts/trends/learnings that I took away and that range from inspiring to shocking for me.
1 in 6 couples in the UK struggle to conceive, 15% worldwide.
Infertility was a major topic at this year’s European summit. Elisabeth Weis from Organon explained why we should ease the burden of this topic on women and consider fertility as a public health and societal issue. To achieve long-term economic growth, governments should promote education on fertility and family planning, embrace and support diverse family structures, and make IVFs (In vitro fertilisation) more accessible. Furthermore, according to Elisabeth, technology development will be incredibly important to help patients in critical stages when they feel emotional stress and provide a better service to digital natives.
1.2 billion women around the world will be in menopause by 2030.
Gila Tolub from McKinsey explained that menopause is a big investment opportunity. Currently, only 4% of the FemTech start-ups aim to provide menopause care for women reaching this stage of life, leaving an immense white space. Around 80% of the affected women experience symptoms that make everyday life and work a struggle. Therefore, providing proper care is also essential for employers since women reaching menopause usually stand at the top of their careers. Also, Mridula Pore, co-founder of Peppy Health, talked about the impact menopause can have on businesses. Today, 1 in 4 affected women consider quitting their job due to symptoms, a lack of working flexibility, and health support in the workplace. Some reduce their working hours, change their work roles, or decide not to go for the next promotion. Because everyone menstruating will reach this phase of life at some point, more employers must break the stigma and offer care programs in order to attract, engage and retain their talents.
1 in 10 women has PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome).
Kathrin Folkendt, the founder of FemTech Insider and Perla Health, shared her personal health story and how her symptoms weren’t taken seriously when she visited a medical professional. It wasn’t until she found a flyer about PCOS that she heard about the condition for the first time and got herself tested. 50% of the affected are underdiagnosed and potentially don’t know PCOS exists. Symptoms are not well recognized, and the hormonal disorder condition isn’t very well understood nor researched. Kathrin talked about the importance of building communities and educating people to raise awareness and lower the number of undiagnosed people. Also, focusing on people that have been diagnosed is essential to ensure they have a well-managed and balanced life with PCOS. She sees big potential in hormonal health and the conditions found in this space.
Women’s health is not a niche.
1 in 10 women globally is affected by endometriosis.
Endometriosis is also a common hormone imbalance, and same as PCOS, it is a highly underdiagnosed and undertreated condition. It takes between 4 and 11 years on average to get the correct diagnosis. (Usually, because symptoms aren’t being taken seriously, and surgery is needed to confirm the hormonal disorder.) Improving patient outcomes by developing less invasive and more timely methods for the diagnostics and treatment process is beneficial for patients, society, and the economy.
Hormones are a huge trend and exciting sujet.
As we learned from Shardi Nahavandi, co-founder of TUNNE, and Anna Butterworth, founder of Ultraviolet Agency, understanding hormones is the ideal start to understanding female bodies and how they function. It can be very powerful to know where in the cycle women are standing and what impact the hormones have on their bodies and daily activities. By syncing the hormonal cycle with work and other activities, women can improve their quality of life. Anna also talked about education being crucial to helping people listen to their bodies and understand what they need. First innovations have already happened, and now the time for consolidation has come. By bringing brands and stakeholders together to tackle issues, people wouldn’t have to look for specific support (e.g., endometriosis or PCOS) but rather get general women’s tests to see where they are standing and how their hormones are changing over a lifetime.
Over 100 Million cancer screenings have been skipped during the pandemic in Europe.
Shannon Altimari from GSK reported that cancer patients’ treatment has been seriously compromised since the covid outbreak. We experience that it’s necessary to leverage technology to improve the quality of treatment and reduce cancer mortality. Even when everything is at a standstill. By creating more digital solutions, oncologists could ensure that cancer patients get the attention and treatment they need. Even when they want to be extra cautious and avoid exposure.
30.000 women in Europe will lose their lives this year due to ovarian cancer.
Although ovarian cancer is highly treatable, most cases are not detected until a late stage. That’s why innovation and technology are also required and highly needed in areas like early diagnostics. Moreover, discussing something below the waistline must no longer be considered taboo. And collaboration with different stakeholders to encourage people to talk about their symptoms, increase awareness and improve diagnostics, must be established.
FemTech is no cost center but “future capital”
One thing is clear: The market potential for women’s health-related products and services is hard to ignore! Investors also hope to see a development in the upcoming years of founders focusing more on topics like hormone tracking, less-invasive treatments, endometriosis, menopause, pre-labor, trans hormones, data collection for clinical studies, and solutions addressing underserved communities soon.
FemTech is full of patient founders doing great work and trying to push the industry forward. But we learned that to really accelerate the growth, collaboration with other players such as governments, educators, medical professionals, and employers is vital. After all, it’s a societal and economic burden. And it is costing the economy billions due to lost productivity and direct healthcare costs. It’s also important to give room to all the voices within this space and listen to their stories to truly focus on the unmet needs women and people with vaginas face every day. Seeing so many people suffering and living with daily limitations due to an illness, disease, or stage of life and not receiving the proper care should be a wake-up call for everyone.