An open letter calling for an improvement in gender equity in global healthcare has been signed by over 40 signatories, including GE HealthCare, Salesforce, Microsoft, UCB and Roche.

Global management consulting firm, Kearney has launched the open letter at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, addressing all players in the healthcare ecosystem. It calls for industry-wide collaboration to improve gender equity, noting that addressing the women’s health gap could boost the global economy by $1 trillion annually by 2040, according to the World Economic Forum.

The letter – which can be read online – highlights a lengthy history of inadequate awareness, data, infrastructure and funding, as well as societal and institutional bias which lead to worse health outcomes for women globally.

This negative imbalance means, on average, women wait four times longer than men to receive a diagnosis for the same disease; are seven times more likely to have a heart condition misdiagnosed; and are 52% more likely to experience an adverse reaction to medical drugs.

An industry-wide issue

Gender biases can be found across the healthcare ecosystem, from funding – where just three percent of overall digital health funding goes to women’s health digital start-ups – through to education, with 41% of UK medical schools not having mandatory menopause education on the curriculum. This is despite the past few years seeing a spate of digital healthcare tools to help navigate the menopause, including former Digital Health Rewired Pitchfest winners Peppy, who rolled out its app to NatWest staff and this month the Maven Clinic offering its virtual menopause support to employees of BSI.

The letter aims to bring together a cross-sector community of representatives from the healthcare industry, education, government, the medical profession and financial investors to help shape a more equitable future for women’s health.

Paula Bellostas, partner at Kearney, was responsible for spearheading the letter, and said on the 18th January: “Women not only spend a greater part of their lives in ill health and disability when compared with men, but they are also more likely to have their concerns dismissed, misdiagnosed, or missed altogether when they do seek help. And although there has been some progress in recent years, individual actors across the healthcare ecosystem cannot solve a problem of this magnitude and complexity.

“Today’s open letter focuses on one central premise: creativity, community, and collaboration will be needed to close the women’s health gap and we are excited to bring together players from all sectors that are determined to change things for the better, together.”

Tackling the gender gap

The letter sets out six ways to end gender disparity in healthcare, which focus on redesigning the healthcare system with women in mind. They are:

  1. Increasing advocacy and awareness around women’s health
  2. Expanding curriculums to adequately cover women’s health topics
  3. Increasing the volume of clinical and policy research trials on women’s health
  4. Building women-centric integrated care pathways
  5. Ensuring gender-specific data sets are collected, regulated, analysed, used, and shared across the healthcare ecosystem
  6. Boosting funding for academic research, product research and development, and consumer health solutions around women’s health