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University of Houston researcher to examine femtech privacy issues post-Roe

The research will look at the accuracy, efficacy, and privacy of women’s health tracking apps

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A health law professor from the University of Houston has announced an extensive research study on the femtech privacy issues following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion.

The Roe v Wade reversal, by way of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, inadvertently drew attention to the work of consumer health technology researchers like Leah Fowler, research assistant professor at the University of Houston Law Center’s Health Law & Policy Institute.

Her expertise on this front has been much sought after following the June 2022 Supreme Court decision that prompted widespread concerns about the security and privacy of femtech.

Following the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, for instance, calls for users to delete their femtech apps started popping up across the internet.

Period and fertility tracking apps hold some of the most “wildly intimate” information about the human body, according to Fowler, from the date of a user’s last menstrual cycle to an ovulation window, even including further details that could point to a potential or past pregnancy.

In the wrong hands, some advocates say this information could be used against consumers, especially in regions where individuals aiding or performing abortions have the potential to be sued by private citizens.

The researcher’s forthcoming work titled Femtechnodystopia, in partnership with Michael R. Ulrich of Boston University School of Public Health, concentrates on this intersection, imagining a multifaceted approach to safeguarding the benefits of femtech from the potential harms in a post-Roe world.

“I’m really interested about where consumer health technologies we use every day intersect with the law. There’s a breakdown in how people understand their rights and what their rights actually are,” she explained.

Her research examines the accuracy, efficacy, and privacy of healthcare technology — including femtech tools such as period and fertility tracking apps.

Femtech products are defined as a category of consumer technologies that address an array of “female” health needs.

While Fowler’s scope of research extends beyond the femtech realm, she said that this subset of healthcare technologies may be garnering more attention because they make “concrete a lot of the issues that are common across health technology”.

Is it time to delete femtech apps? It depends on the product, says Fowler, hesitating to advise people to delete an app they find useful, “especially in the absence of evidence these are being currently used to prosecute people”.

She says it can be more helpful to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of how much utility the product gives you versus what you give up in exchange for it.

Additionally, Fowler recommends checking privacy policies for phrases like “does not engage in third-party sharing” or “data stored on device” instead of in a cloud.

“Whatever calculus you’re making for a period and fertility tracking app, take that same type analysis to other apps you download to your phone and every other type of technology you use,” she added.

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New survey to ‘amplify’ marginalised voices in healthcare decision-making

UK charities enter partnership to address gender gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies

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The gynaecological health charity Cysters and Endometriosis UK have announced a partnership to amplify women’s voice in healthcare decision-making.

Despite progress in healthcare data collection, there remains a gap in representing the experiences of marginalised groups, particularly for those impacted by conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Decision-makers in Parliament and the NHS often rely on data and statistics to inform policy and resource allocation. However, these datasets may not accurately reflect the experiences of marginalised communities.

A recent report from Endometriosis UK that gathered data on the experiences of being diagnosed with endometriosis in the UK found that whilst the ethnicity of respondents who identified as ‘white’ was proportionate to the data collected in the Census 2021, the remaining data was not illustrative of the ethnic diversity of the UK, with 15 per cent of respondents choosing not to respond to the ethnicity question.

To address this gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies, Cysters and Endometriosis UK are launching a new survey initiative aimed at amplifying the voices of marginalised groups in healthcare decision-making.

“We know that the current statistics are not inclusive of all communities, particularly marginalised groups,” said Neelam Heera-Shergill, founder of Cysters.

“By encouraging those from marginalised communities to share their experiences through this survey, they will be helping us to advocate for the changes that are needed, backed by evidence from their communities.

“In addition to delving into the diagnosis journey for people of colour and the unique barriers they encounter. We aim for this research and findings to pave the way for additional funded research on all menstrual-related conditions affecting people of colour.”

The survey seeks to gather insights into the experiences of marginalised communities, particularly concerning conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Participants are encouraged to share their experiences openly and honestly, knowing that their responses will contribute to shaping more inclusive healthcare policies.

Sarah Harris, a researcher at Cysters, said: “We urge everyone to participate in this survey and share it far and wide. Together, we can ensure that all voices are considered in the conversation surrounding healthcare policy and resource allocation.”

The survey is anonymous and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. To participate, visit Delayed Diagnosis of Endometriosis Among People of Colour in the UK Survey.

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Menstrual care start-up launches period equity initiative across college campuses

The initiative is hoped to facilitate access to period care and educate students on the use of more sustainable products

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Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt

The US menstrual care start-up Saalt has launched a new initiative aimed at addressing period poverty and environmental sustainability.

The Period Equity Initiative aims to reduce 100 million tampons from the environment while combatting period poverty.

Institutions, including Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, the University of Utah and the University of Nebraska, are already participating in the programme.

One in five female college students in the US have had to decide between buying period products and paying for other basic essentials like food and other bills according to a nationwide survey.

The initiative, a direct response to the demand for more units for student populations, underscores the issue of period poverty, which affects students across America, challenging the misconception that it is solely an “overseas problem”.

Saalt aims to make period care accessible and affordable through the subsidisation of reusable period products, such as cups, discs, and period underwear, to participating universities and their campus affiliates.

The project is hoped to not only facilitate access to period care, but also educate students on the use of more sustainable products, which are designed to be reused rather than discarded.

“Every day we hear from customers about how life-changing Saalt cups are for them,” said Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt.

“Creating period equity and managing the environmental impact created by disposables are pressing matters that demand urgent attention and innovative solutions.

“Through our Period Equity Initiative, we’re taking a proactive approach to tackle these challenges by leveraging our expertise and aligning with universities across America to make a big impact closer to home.”

The Period Equity Initiative, Hoeger added, furthers Saalt’s commitment to making period care more affordable, accessible and sustainable.

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Medical device start-up enters partnership with Bayer Switzerland

The collaboration is hoped to help “transform” gynaecological examinations

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The medical device start-up Aspivix has announced a partnership with Bayer Switzerland in an effort to “modernise” gynaecological procedures.

Aspivix has developed an innovative, suction-based cervical device designed as an alternative to the tenaculum, a surgical instrument commonly used in gynaecology for over a century.

The device aims to reduce pain and bleeding during transcervical procedures, including IUD placement.

Through the partnership with Bayer, Aspivix is now officially introducing Carevix in an effort to “transform” gynaecological examinations.

The collaboration is hoped to help bring the tool to market and offer women a more comfortable gynaecological experience, reducing the cases of pain associated with IUD procedures.

“We are excited to enter this partnership with Bayer (Schweiz) AG that truly emphasise the goal of empowering women to select the best contraceptive solution without worrying about potential pain and bleeding,” said Mathieu Horras, co-founder and CEO of Aspivix.

“The thorough research and clinical data behind Carevix guarantee a notable decrease in pain and bleeding, enhancing the experience of IUD adoption and placement, as well as various other gynaecological procedures for millions of women.”

The device, Horras added, provides an appealing alternative to the currently available tenaculum, filling an “important” unmet need.

Marco Gierten, Bayer Switzerland women’s healthcare lead, said: “As a globally trusted brand, Bayer remains committed to advancing solutions that provide significant benefits to patients.”

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