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Unravelling the power of Sheconomy in healthcare

Article-Unravelling the power of Sheconomy in healthcare

Shutterstock Sheconomy 2030.jpg
The phenomenon targets the women’s health industry to achieve true health equity and personalised medicine.

One of the most important megatrends, and perhaps most underrated, that impacts the global economy and society is Sheconomy. Women are undergoing life-altering changes compared to their grandmothers; we live in the era of the new woman.

What is different about this new woman?

By 2030, 45 per cent of women aged 25 to 44 will be single; women are also delaying getting married, which means the new average age to have children has been pushed back to 35. The social media revolution has transformed society and culture, and women are defining everything about their life based on social influencers who set new standards. Among social influencers, 84 per cent are women (who are paid less), compared to only 16 per cent of men. Interestingly, 86 per cent of women use influencers for purchasing decisions and advice, including healthcare.

Social media and other trends of the latest generations are driving changes in our society — self-care, wellness, food, education, and healthcare are experiencing a surge, driven by the new woman. Given enough time for Sheconomy and other related trends, industries are going to have to change. Is healthcare prepared?

Women’s health: The rise of Sheconomy

There will be 4.3 billion women in the world by 2030; however, the women’s health industry is not yet mainstream.

  • The market is comprised of 1,300+ companies; 98 per cent are start-ups.
  • There are 1,290+ investors.
  • There is approximately US$1.7 million in start-up funding (2021), which is only ~5-6 per cent of total digital health funding.
  • There are three unicorns: Maven Clinic, Kindbody and Clue.
  • The estimated total revenue for femtech will reach US$3.35 billion by 2025 for fertility, menstrual care, pregnancy care, pelvic health, menopausal care, and mental health.
  • Changes must be implemented in how we approach women’s health, in unison with healthcare dynamics, to enable this industry to go mainstream.

Sheconomy 2030: Changing healthcare approaches

Healthcare as an industry is transforming dramatically as well. Much has been said about how the pandemic has brought about a digital revolution and how we are now talking more about health equity, personalised medicine, and social determinants of health. But what do all these fancy terms mean in relation to women and their health needs?

Health equity

The basis of gender equity starts with health equity. Of course, this area has made enormous strides in the past few years. But with respect to women’s health, we are only now moving past recognition of these needs in the ask for gender equality. We are moving away from just watching and recognising that women’s health is an important component of health equity. This is, therefore, going to be the decade of action, which means four things for women’s health:

  • Equitable access to affordable, quality care.
  • Right to choose a care option.
  • Women-specific research and clinical trials to better diagnose and treat women’s health issues.
  • Catering to unaddressed needs of women in developing nations.

Personalised medicine

What is missing from this conversation is the aspect of gender when delivering “personalised care.” Today, we know for a fact that we are no longer simply women with certain features that define us. We are unique in every single cell in our body to men. Additionally, we know that the current model of healthcare that has been built ‘by men, for men’ no longer works for either men or women equivocally. We need to be asking different questions today. The question we really should be asking is: should care delivery be gender-specific?

Why this outcry? It is clinically acknowledged that women experience certain chronic conditions and their treatments (impact, side effects and outcomes) differently than men. The list is large and includes mental health disorders, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, osteoporosis, and probably others. Yet, we don’t have different treatment regimens, clinical protocols, or even drug doses for women.

Simply put, we need a framework for action that will enable us to look at women’s healthcare differently. That framework encompasses two big aspects:

Clinical research and development: Equitable representation of women in current research and clinical trials (even to the extent of women-specific research trials to better understand disease and treatment impacts on women) and higher investment and funding to enable this, will eventually lead to better clinical protocols, policies, and regulations to guide improved health outcomes in women.

Care delivery transformation: This needs to be reviewed from a woman’s needs point of view. Do we have enough doctors and specialists trained to deal with this new reality? Do we have enough programs in medical school and enough time spent on teaching the next generation of doctors about these issues? Simply put, do we have gender equity training in medical schools?

Our proposed framework for care delivery transformation has three components:

Sex-specific care: Health needs that are anatomy-specific, e.g., addressing women’s health issues across all ages with holistic prevention, care and treatment.

Sex-aware care: Care for conditions diagnosed/treated differently in women than in men. The set of “atypical” symptoms and severity of the chronic conditions that are different in women calls for differentiated care and treatment, e.g., Zimmer Holdings Inc.’s gender-specific solution for its high-flex knee implant, designed with the anatomical differences in women’s and men’s knees in mind.

Gender-sensitive care: Care provided in ways that reflect gender-specific preferences. NIRAMAI Analytics, an Indian company, is fighting social myths and taboos by creating a breast-cancer screening solution, which is a no-touch and no-see procedure. The technician (male at times) stays outside of the screening booth, so the woman is comfortable.

This is not an easy feat. But with concerted efforts by governments, policy-makers, healthcare products and services vendors, clinicians, and women, we could make this a reality, helping achieve the true meaning of health equity and personalised medicine.

Reenita Das is a healthcare futurist and strategist, as well as the Partner and Senior Vice-President, Healthcare & Life Sciences Practice, Frost & Sullivan.


This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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