Advancing Women’s Health with Innovation and Technology

May 20, 2012
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Dr. Susan Blumenthal, former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, shared a bevy of telling statistics about women in a recent Huffington Post article.

Dr. Susan Blumenthal, former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, shared a bevy of telling statistics about women in a recent Huffington Post article.

  • There are 3.4 billion women worldwide.
  • The number of people over the age of 60 is expected to reach 1 billion by 2020 and almost 2 billion by 2050, with women constituting a majority of the population.
  • In the U.S., women over the age of 65 are predicted to represent 20 percent of the country’s population by 2050.
  • More than two-thirds of the world’s refugees are women and children, and gender-based violence causes more deaths and disability among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, and traffic accidents combined.
  • Globally, two-thirds of the people who are illiterate are women, and 41 million girls are denied access to a primary education.
  • Every day, an estimated 1,600 women die from preventable complications during pregnancy or childbirth, and 99 percent of maternal mortality occurs in the developing world.
  • Globally, young women are 1.6 times more likely to be living with HIV/AIDS than young men.

As noted by Dr. Blumenthal, improving surveillance of disease, advancing scientific research, strengthening health systems, increasing awareness of cultural issues, and emphasizing disease prevention, and promoting early detection and treatment are the cornerstones of ensuring a healthier future for women worldwide.  Specifically, I am wondering …how are we using innovation and technology to accomplish these goals?

For the good news, advancement is occurring in a variety of ways.  The UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health has targeted nine areas for improvement.  Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Comprehensive Fibroid Center, Center for Reproductive Health, Center for Reproductive Sciences, Women’s Continence Center and the Women’s Health and the Empowerment Center of Expertise all support research in Women’s Health through first-rate basic science, public policy, clinical research, and translational research.

With women making the majority of family healthcare decisions as the primary caregiver, smart health systems, such as the Woman’s College Hospital, are seeking women’s opinions for optimizing care delivery in a variety of environments.   And, healthcare information technology providers are heeding the call as well.  Cerner Women’s Health supports a pregnant woman’s entire continuum of care. It is integrated and accessible in real time — from the patient’s home, to her doctor’s office, to the labor and delivery room, to surgery, to the NICU, and eventually back to her home.

One of the most exciting tools to note is Advancing Women’s Health, a universally accessible free resource for educational and teaching tools focused on sex- and gender-specific women’s health for clinicians, medical faculty, medical students and health practitioners. Created by members of leading women’s health organizations and the largest women physician’s organization in the U.S., Advancing Women’s Health is aimed at improving women’s health by recognizing and applying evidence-based medicine to the specific issues, concerns, and medical responses that affect women.

No small undertaking indeed, this comprehensive tool appears to have utility in a variety of formats.  So, will we see custom text alerts being created…or better yet, preventative healthcare messages being distributed via an Advancing Women’s Health app?  I, for one, would celebrate that.