Make 2023 the year to prioritize women’s health

TeaThirty years ago this week, the bill that became the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993—a game changer for research on women’s health—was introduced in the US Senate by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). This historic act has helped greatly improve women’s health in the United States and around the world.

This week would also have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Wade was not overturned last June, thrusting women’s health and health care into the spotlight and sparking a national political debate about women’s reproductive rights.

2022 was marked by a greater focus on healthcare transformation, driven by the many harsh lessons taught by the COVID-19 pandemic. This included identifying gaps in women’s health care, including gender bias and health disparities, that have long prevented women from receiving the quality care they deserve.

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Looking ahead, I believe 2023 could turn out to be a watershed year that will move the needle further on women’s health and healthcare. Since women make up more than half of America’s population, it’s time to consider women’s health as more than a niche market. Women’s health includes much more than reproductive health, but for far too long it has been viewed that way. The ability to make real progress depends on health care leaders listening to women, identifying and addressing their challenges in a meaningful way, and investing in women and women entrepreneurs.

Here’s a shortlist of the focus areas I think deserve the most attention this year, in order to advance the transformation of women’s health care and unlock the many valuable opportunities in doing so.

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expanding maternal and reproductive health care

The US Supreme Court’s Roe v. The decision to overturn Wade wasn’t just a landmark and far-reaching decision: It also exposed the nation’s maternal mortality crisis. It is a stark reality that the maternal mortality rate in the US is more than three times that of 10 other high-income countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. Black women are almost three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women.

Most pregnancy-related deaths in the US are preventable. In other words, there is a lot of work to be done.

Access to a regular doctor or point of care is essential for women to ensure good health outcomes. Yet more than 19 million women of reproductive age in the U.S. live in contraceptive deserts, and about 1.2 million of them live in counties where no single health center offers a full range of contraceptive options. While the Food and Drug Administration’s recent decision to allow retail pharmacies to sell mifepristone will broaden access to medical abortion, some states have banned abortion altogether. Access to affordable contraception, family planning and maternal health care are essential needs for women across America

expanding access to mental health resources

COVID-19 has increased mental health concerns that disproportionately affect women. According to CARE’s Rapid Gender Analysis, the mental health impact of the pandemic was three times larger on women’s lives than men’s, with women reporting higher rates of anxiety and depression. This is understandable, given that women generally faced greater stress and responsibilities during the pandemic, including rapid school closures and homeschooling children left to manage their own work and the evolving pandemic. This includes taking into account the psychological reactions of your family.

Even as the pandemic began to subside in 2022, the country’s mental health crisis continued. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey, demand for treatment for trauma- and stress-related disorders as well as substance use disorders remains high. And nearly half of mental health care providers have been unable to meet the demand for treatment.

In 2023, I expect to see more solutions to address the different types of mental health challenges women face. As companies leverage technology to develop solutions, it has become clear that partnering with and listening to mental health experts will lead to making patient safety a priority. Also needed: Addressing the acute shortage of behavioral health providers, including expanding mental health services in the workplace and improving the integration of behavioral health into primary care.

normalizing aging

Women deserve to age how they age. Yet there is still a lot of stigma in the workplace around menopause and aging. Women often reach the peaks of their careers as soon as they begin to experience menopause, forcing them to manage a host of invisible and visible symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep issues. Many are embarrassed to express these signs at work because of the fear of being “outed” as menopausal.

That fear is warranted. In a 2022 study published in Harvard Business Review exploring stereotypes associated with menopause, both full-time workers and college students perceived a fictional coworker described as a “menopausal woman” to be less confident and less emotionally stable. described as being A “middle aged woman.”

But there is more to the story. The researchers also found an effective strategy to overcome this bias: When a woman said her hot flashes were caused by menopause, she was viewed as “more confident, stable, and leader-like,” when She claimed to be “just hot”. ,

Simply put, talking about normalizing menopause at work can help foster perceptions of competence and leadership potential. But it requires employers to create psychologically safe workplaces in which women feel comfortable discussing issues and seeking the support they need without fear of discrimination or retaliation.

health care reimagined

Women make up 60% of the US workforce. As consumers, they make more than 80% of health care decisions – researching, analyzing and deciding on the best course of health care for themselves as well as for their partners, children and aging parents. As someone who has worked hard throughout my career to remove unnecessary barriers to health care, I say it’s time to reimagine health care in a way that really addresses the needs of women. completes. I am confident we will see more progress in this direction in 2023, but achieving that goal requires addressing long-standing gender bias, prioritizing women’s health, and equal access to health care for all women. There is a need to expand access, regardless of their race, income, class, or sexual orientation.

The results will ultimately be better outcomes for women: imagine reducing maternal mortality, broadening access to fertility care options, reducing anxiety and depression, and normalizing menopause so women can live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives .

Michele Carnahan is the president of Thirty Madison, a family of specialty health care brands.


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