Women’s Health Is An Investment Not A Cost
Updated: Apr 25
A consolidation of facts and figures concerning women’s health and the huge global potential within it’s investment.
Female-specific conditions are in desperate need of research and innovation however, recent studies show that women’s health is an investment which could economically and socially benefit all of society.
Women make up 50% of the world’s population nevertheless, consider these sobering numbers:
A 2022 McKinsey report found that, “approximately 1 percent of healthcare research and innovation is invested in female-specific conditions.”
Similarly, in 2022, the FDA approved 37 prescription drugs; yet just two of those drugs were for health conditions that only affect women.
Female-specific conditions can be defined as sex-based differences. A 2001 report by the Institute of Medicine concluded that “every cell in our body has a sex” and that sex affects disease prevention or development, diagnoses, treatments and reactions.
The desperate need for research into these conditions can be seen in the experience of women around the world through these 3 categories:
1. Female-specific condition diseases - these include conditions such as Endometriosis, where cells similar to the lining of the womb, start to grow in other parts of the body. The NHS has listed this condition as 1 of the 20 most painful diseases. Also, PCOS, which affects how a woman’s ovaries work. Or Lipedema, where connective tissue builds up in legs or hips. Each one of these conditions are chronic, affect 1 in 10 women globally and have no cure or reliable treatment.
2. Female responses to conditions - these include the difference in how women respond to gender neutral diseases, for example women are 50% more likely to die than men in the year following a heart attack. Also, 3/4 of the 5.4 million people suffering from Allheimer’s are women and twice as many women suffer from depression in the US than men.
3. Naturally occurring female conditions - these include functions such as periods, pregnancy and menopause. It’s estimated that 50% of all pregnancies worldwide are unplanned and every 2 minutes a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth. Also, 80% of women suffer from period pain and by 2030, the world population of menopausal and postmenopausal women is projected to increase to 1.2 billion while 83% of women said the menopause affected their day-to-day life.
Women’s health is not a niche subject, it plays a part in all sectors of health and wellbeing.
But, if women’s health is taken seriously, there are massive economical benefits to the whole of society, a small example is that 80% of consumer purchasing decisions in the healthcare industry are made by women - women are looking for, and are ready to spend money on, specialised products.
But a much bigger example is that it’s estimated if we invest “$300 million in women’s health research across just three diseases, we get $13 billion in returns to our economy.”
A closer inspection into the economy of women’s health shows that in the United States, unplanned pregnancy costs the U.S. healthcare system more than $5 billion annually in direct and indirect costs. However, a recent study suggests that for each dollar “invested in meeting the unmet need for contraceptives yields in the long-term $120 in accrued annual benefits.”
On the other side, it’s estimated that more than 90 countries have a birth rate lower than the average needed to replace their population. 23 nations are expected to see their population decline by 50% by the end of the century. Investment into IVF and egg freezing to make these procedures accessible for all women who want to bare children could benefit many countries.
Here are some other ways women’s health can benefit wider society:
Between the years 2020-2021, 61% of university students were women, meaning that investment into contraception, period pain management and menopause symptoms will lead to a more reliable workforce in the future.
Femtech is projected to become a $75 billion market by 2025 however, the innovations in technology for women’s health can benefit the whole STEM industry with new innovations and advancements.
McKinsey believes women are usually the “caretakers” in society and so women’s health has benefits for the welfare of children and the elderly.
Investment into women’s health would improve quality of life for women around the world which should be the main reason for investing. However, instead of viewing women’s health as additional costs, it needs to be realised that women’s opportunities and decisions are greatly affecting wider society and investing in women’s wellbeing can mean substantial growth in many sectors.