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North East London set to reduce maternal health inequities with new app

CardMedic will be used to address healthcare inequalities and support improvements in perinatal pelvic health

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The digital patient communication app CardMedic will be used to improve communication and boost safety for maternity service users in London.

People using maternity services in north east London will be encouraged to play a greater role in their care with the rollout of the digital tool, helping to reduce health inequalities.

The system has been commissioned by North East London Health and Care Partnership, the integrated care system (ICS) which covers Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, and Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

It follows national reports and audits suggesting poor outcomes – particularly for those from black, asian and mixed ethnic backgrounds – could have been different with more accessible information, stronger communication and greater cultural awareness.

“After speaking with maternity service users in north east London and understanding their experiences, it was clear that major gaps in service provision existed, with pregnant people and families often feeling they were not being listened to by staff,” said Alice Compton, senior project manager for maternity digital and data transformation and a digital midwife at NEL ICS.

“Deploying CardMedic will help us address this – giving service users the opportunity to play an active role in their care and reassuring clinicians that they are delivering the same care standards to all their patients, irrespective of their language or background.”

She added: “We know improvements need to be made to ensure pregnancy and birthing experiences are equitable, personalised and culturally appropriate for everyone, so by getting it right for those who experience the poorest outcomes, we’ll get it right for everyone.”

North east London (NEL) ICS serves a diverse and fast-growing population, with more than 250 languages spoken and 53 per cent of residents identifying as belonging to an ethnic minority, compared to 11 per cent across England. It also has the highest birth rate in the country.

CardMedic will initially be used in maternity services to address the healthcare inequalities that exist in parts of NEL and support improvements in perinatal pelvic health among those who need extra specialist care during or after pregnancy.

As well as providing instant translation support in a number of different languages, the app can also be switched to British Sign Language and subtitles to help those who are deaf or have hearing problems, Easy Read for children or people with learning disabilities, and a ‘read aloud’ function for those with visual impairment or literacy issues.

It is hoped this will enable maternity teams to use translation services in a more efficient way, allowing staff to act more quickly in urgent and emergency situations and overcome communication barriers at times when translators are not available.

Dr Rachael Grimaldi, co-founder and chief executive, CardMedic, said: “Everyone as the right to access healthcare, and communication barriers should never stand in people’s way.

“We’re proud to be a part of NEL’s journey in reducing health inequalities, improving communication between healthcare staff and families, and making care more accessible for all.”

The feedback gathered from maternity service users in north east London and their families has been used to produce a strategy and action plan which aims to improve equity and equality for pregnant people, so services better meet the needs of those who use them.

Digital tools such as CardMedic have been recognised in the strategy as important elements to consider to deliver on these aims.

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Start-up launches London Underground campaign to break down period stigma

The two-week campaign seeks to challenge societal taboos surrounding menstrual health

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The Irish women’s health start-up Riley has launched an ad campaign on the London Underground to “take the fear out of periods”.

Riley, an eco-friendly period product subscription service, aims to take action against period poverty and democratise access to period products.

The company seeks to encourage the introduction of menstrual health policies and foster a workplace where discussions around periods are normalised.

Its two-week London Underground campaign, which coincides with the opening of its first office in London, is hoped to help destigmatise periods and normalise conversations around menstrual health.

“The idea behind this campaign comes from the fact that free period care in the office is often seen as an employee perk or a ‘nice to have’, when it should actually be an essential offering in every office,” Meaghan Droney, eCommerce manager at Riley, told Femtech World.

“Our aim with this campaign is to flip those current mindsets and get people to change their attitudes towards period care in the workplace.

“With 79 per cent of menstruators feeling unsupported in relation to their periods at work, this oversight is clearly fundamentally unfair and it’s time for change.

“We’re encouraging any and all businesses to get in touch with us so we can support them in introducing menstrual policies and free period care in their workplace to empower all employees, no matter their gender, to thrive and feel valued at work.”

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that only 12 per cent of UK companies provide support for menstruation and menstrual health, despite 85 per cent of women experiencing stress or anxiety when managing their period at work.

Data suggests that half of the women who take absence because of their menstrual cycle feel unable to tell their manager, underscoring the deep-rooted stigma around periods.

Fiona Parfrey, co-founder of Riley, said: “Access to safe and high-quality sustainable period care products not only demonstrates a commitment to employee welfare but also fosters a culture of empathy, equality, and respect, ultimately contributing to a more engaged and empowered workforce.

“Menstrual policies and free period care are a fundamental necessity for every individual in the workplace. It’s about ensuring that employees have the resources they need to maintain their wellbeing and productivity without interruption.”

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Singapore-based fertility centre sets up grant for couples struggling to conceive

This grant aims to support eligible Singaporean couples facing financial and family planning challenges

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A Singapore-based fertility centre is to set up a grant to support couples struggling to conceive.

Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore (VFCS) announced that it would set up a grant to support aspiring parents on their IVF journey.

The initial grant is set for at $50,000 SGD and, depending on the take-up rate over the next 12 fiscal months, VFCS plans to increase the pool to benefit more couples in the subsequent years.

The grant will cover the main costs associated with IVF treatments and procedures, including embryo retrieval and transfer, laboratory services and embryo prep. It will also be applicable to fresh and frozen egg transfers.

As grant recipients, their samples will similarly be given a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, a service VFCS provides for all its patients. It locks the patient’s identity with the respective sample. The RFID identifies gametes—eggs, sperms, or embryos—at every stage of the IVF treatment.

According to VFCS, the grant will also include access to counselling services and wellness resources.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the emotional toll and occasional frustration that infertility can take on individuals and couples, especially for some who are still young and healthy,” said Dr Roland Chieng, medical director at VFCS.

“The common deterrent of going for fertility treatment is always associated with the cost, more so in a private care setting where their only source of funds is through Medisave.

“By alleviating their financial concerns, we hope ReadyBaby Fertility Grant empowers patients to approach their IVF journey, focusing on their clinical needs and working towards a healthy pregnancy and less on financials.

“With access to the necessary treatments and support, patients can embark on their path to parenthood with renewed confidence, knowing they have the clinical resources and guidance they need to navigate this journey,” he added.

Tim Kwan, VFCS’s managing director, said: “We believe every couple deserves the opportunity to experience the profound joy of parenthood.

“With the ReadyBaby Fertility Grant, we aim to support aspiring couples on their IVF journey and help them bring new life into the world.”

To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be married Singaporean couples diagnosed with medical infertility by a fertility specialist and first-time parents who have not tried IVF before.

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Canadian insurer launches partnership to support women’s health

Members of the Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross will have access to a dedicated women’s health platform

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Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving

The Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross (MBC) has partnered with the virtual health platform sanoLiving to support women on their menopause journey.

Currently, more than 10 million Canadian women are navigating menopause, often with little support and misinformation about treatments.

With sanoMidLife, sanoLiving’s online menopause platform, Medavie Blue Cross members will have access to a national women’s health platform tailored to provide care and services for women going through the menopause.

The service includes personalised assessments, access to clinicians, treatments, educational content, peer support and AI assistance.

“Many women lack support for their menopause transition due to the misunderstandings of what is ‘normal’ and misinformation about treatments,” said Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving.

“Women are seeking solutions that allow them to thrive during midlife. We are thrilled about our alliance with Medavie Blue Cross, and our shared commitment to providing access to care that empowers women.”

Anita Swamy, senior vice president operations at Medavie Blue Cross, added: “We’ve heard first-hand from our members about the need for more menopause-related services.

“Our partnership with sanoLiving creates an innovative way to increase access to care for our members as we continue to focus on the support women need to navigate their benefits and provide forward-thinking options to support their health.”

Studies report one in 10 women exit the workforce due to unmanaged symptoms. Early onset of menopause and symptoms before age 45 can elevate the risk of health issues like heart disease, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis.

With this new service, Medavie Blue Cross and sanoLiving are aiming to open up the conversation around menopause, reduce stigma and work towards giving women the access to the care they need.

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