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Ariela Marshall

Physician, Advocate for #GenderEquity and #WomensHealth Fertility/infertility awareness Work-Life Integration Career Development /Mentorship

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United States

I’ve seen multiple changes, many of them positive.
First, I think there has been increased awareness of women’s health as an area for innovation and development. There are multiple companies focusing on previously under-recognized areas such as fertility/infertility management, reproductive life planning, pregnancy and the postpartum state, and menopause.
Second, there are also many companies focusing on novel ways to deliver care to women and their families (for example Maven Clinic in the US and other platforms focusing on telehealth). Third, beyond women’s physical health there are also many groups working in the advocacy space to give a stronger voice to women’s mental health and also the larger topic of gender equity – for example, I love Reshma Saujani’s company “Moms First“.

Women’s health isn’t just about pregnancy and babies and I think it is so important to address the social determinants of women’s health such as mental health and economic security as these ALL play into overall health. So – that’s a long answer but overall I would say that the most significant changes in women’s health over the past 3-5 years are increased awareness and advocacy!

Unfortunately, there are also some negative changes especially the Dobbs decision in the US which have created (and continue to create) barriers to women’s reproductive health and rights and these will certainly have a negative impact on women’s health from the standpoint not only of physical health but also mental health and ability to participate fully in the workforce.

One of the biggest challenges to new innovation/development in women’s health is the lack of awareness of its importance and potential economic impact on the part of those who fund health innovation and development (angel investors, venture capital and private equity firms).

Unfortunately a good deal of these firms (particularly the larger more well-known VC and PE groups) are largely run by men and sometimes it is difficult for them to see/understand the potential impact and return on investment that they can achieve by funding developments in women’s health.

Part of this may be related to the very terminology “women’s health” because we kind of box ourselves in by calling it such. When a man goes to the doctor and gets his prostate checked we don’t call it “men’s health” we simply call it “health” so by calling it “women’s health” there is some diminishment of the potential importance/impact, I think. We need to continue to make those with economic power who fund development aware that these companies are working on developing novel solutions for problems that may impact 50% of the population at different points in their lives – and in fact more than 50% since many times women are also primarily responsible for child and elder care.

We need male funders to understand the economic impact of investing in these startups and new companies – and we need to find novel ways to do that. So many times I have heard “well we have looked at women’s health but not seen much return so far in this sector” and we need to have ready answers to rebut this including responses about investment in mental health companies (which serve women AND men), telehealth companies, etc – these are ALL aspects of women’s health!

At the end of the day, I also believe that it should not be one of these “we as women need to fix this problem” scenarios – I strongly believe in the saying “fix the system not the women.” So I would love to see more MEN in positions of power (principals at big VC or PE firms etc) getting up there on the main stage and talking about the importance of investing in women’s health!

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