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Women’s health among the UK government’s priorities in 2024

The government is looking to improve care for menstrual and gynaecological conditions and expand women’s health hubs

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The UK’s health secretary has named menstrual and gynaecological conditions and women’s health research among the government’s priorities in 2024.

Speaking at the Women’s Health Summit in London to mark the second year of the Women’s Health Strategy for England, Victoria Atkins said it would also prioritise improving maternity care and support for mothers who suffer birth trauma.

“We’re breaking historical barriers that prevent women getting the care they need, building greater understanding of women’s healthcare issues and ensuring their voices are listened to,” she said.

“We’ve made huge progress – enabling almost half a million women access to cheaper HRT, supporting women through the agony of pregnancy loss and opening new women’s health hubs – but I absolutely recognise there is more to do.

“We’re ensuring these changes benefit all women, regardless of socioeconomic background or ethnicity, because our Women’s Health Strategy is only a success if it works for all women.”

The 2024 priorities were developed from responses to the government’s call for evidence from over 100,000 healthcare professionals, women’s health champions, members of the public and other stakeholders across the health sector.

They aim to offer better care for menstrual and gynaecological conditions , expand women’s health hubs, tackle disparities and improve support for vulnerable women, bolster maternity care and accelerate research.

“Helping women and girls who suffer from bad periods can make a huge difference to their lives, education and careers. And any woman who has experienced trauma after giving birth – either mentally or physically – will know the impact it can have on all aspects of her life,” said Minister for Women’s Health, Maria Caulfield.

“These are issues that impact women but they should not be seen as ‘women’s problems’ – it is an everyone problem. We are doing more to put these issues on the agenda and keep them there, to close the gender health gap once and for all.

“We’ve made enormous strides in the first year of the strategy and I’m excited to see what 2024 will bring.”

As well as announcing its new priorities, the government announced the reappointment of Professor Dame Lesley Regan as women’s health ambassador for England for a further two years.

Professor Dame Lesley was appointed as the women’s health ambassador in 2022 and brings a raft of expertise spanning a 44-year career in women’s health as a practising clinician.

Speaking at the summit, she said: “Our Women’s Health Strategy is ambitious. It was created to ensure our healthcare system places women’s health on an equal footing to men.

“I want women everywhere to feel confident that when they seek advice from their healthcare professional, whether it’s for heavy or painful periods or issues following birth, they know they are going to receive world-class treatment.

“This is the ultimate goal of the strategy, and I am delighted that we have made such positive progress in the first year and generated so much enthusiastic help to succeed.”

She added: “This coming year offers us the opportunity of taking further steps forward in delivering better healthcare outcomes for every woman in our society.”

Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK, said: “Women’s health has long been an underfunded and under-researched area.

“Implementing the aspirations in the Women’s Health Strategy will provide a much needed boost to turning this around, improving treatment and the lives of those suffering from endometriosis and menstrual health conditions.

“At Endometriosis UK, we know that many women face an unacceptable delay in securing a diagnosis and appropriate care. With sufficient funding and support, women’s health hubs could offer a real opportunity to drive down diagnosis times and support women to access the support they need.”

Dr Ranee Thakar, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, added: “The focus on improving care and treatment for women with gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis and fibroids, which are often progressive, and have a huge impact on a woman’s quality of life, is hugely welcome.

“We have continually called for action to improve waiting lists in gynaecology services and know that women’s health hubs present a real opportunity to improve women’s health outcomes and reduce inequalities in access and outcomes for women across the country.

“I am also glad to see that ensuring high quality care following birth trauma, an area of care which has long been a professional and personal passion of mine, has been recognised as a key focus for government.”

Chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, said: “The NHS is committed to ensuring women’s individual healthcare needs are met, which is why every area of England is being supported to develop a women’s health hub alongside the rollout of a network of Women’s Health Champions.

“The NHS is also rolling out dedicated pelvic health clinics and every local health system now has a specialist community perinatal mental health team, but there is clearly more to do.”

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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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US start-up raises US$2.32m to address pelvic health concerns

The Flyte intravaginal device aims to treat stress urinary incontinence and strengthen pelvic floor muscles

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The US women’s health start-up Pelvital has raised US$2.32m in funding to address “unanswered” pelvic health issues.

Minnesota-based Pelvital aims to restore pelvic health with its first product Flyte, an FDA-cleared intravaginal treatment for stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and weakened pelvic floor muscles.

The device, originally developed by physicians from the Arctic University of Norway, uses mechanotherapy, a treatment modality that when paired with an active pelvic floor contraction stimulates tissue regeneration and the creation of neuromuscular memory.

The company will use the funding to speed up the commercialisation of Flyte and raise awareness of pelvic health issues.

“Completing this round is an important step in continuing Pelvital’s unwavering dedication to provide women with innovative solutions for pelvic health, including the treatment of SUI,” said Lydia Zeller, president and CEO of Pelvital.

“This funding will play a crucial role in accelerating our commercialisation of Flyte with a strong emphasis on expanding payor coverage and enhancing clinical education and clinician awareness.”

With this final close, Zeller said, Pelvital would welcome new investors including Pier 70 Ventures, Life Science Angels, Tech Coast Angels Orange County, and Blue Pacific Fund.

Preetha Ram, managing partner at Pier 70 Ventures, would join the Pelvital board of directors.

“Joining Pelvital’s board alongside this investment round is truly an honour,” Ram shared.

“Pier 70 and I are thrilled to be part of this transformational opportunity, as Pelvital’s mission aligns beautifully with our dedication to support disruptive technologies that shake up the status quo in healthcare.

“Pelvital’s pioneering work is shaping a future where women’s health receives the attention and innovation it deserves with novel medical devices like Flyte.”

Oscar Moralez, founder and managing partner of Boomerang Ventures who led the investment round, said: “We are thrilled for the successful completion of this round as we aim to tackle the most pressing healthcare challenges.

“Our participation aims to address the chronic underfunding in women’s healthcare. Investing in Flyte, a truly groundbreaking treatment, addresses underserved pelvic health issues like SUI and contributes to raising vital awareness.”

Two published clinical trials have validated Flyte’s safety, efficacy and durability of treatment effect for women with SUI.

Most recently Pelvital published a paper in Therapeutic Advances in Urology, showing that 71 per cent of study participants achieved dry or near dry conditions as evidenced by a reduction in 24-hour pad weight after using Flyte for between two and 12 weeks.

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Cleveland Clinic launches new women’s health and research center

The programme aims to address women’s unique health needs during midlife and beyond

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From left: Cleveland Clinic CEO and president Dr Tom Mihaljevic, Maria Shriver and Dr Beri Ridgeway / Source: clevelandclinic.org

Cleveland Clinic has launched its new Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center, an initiative dedicated to helping women during midlife.

The center, which will focus on access, connectivity, education and research and innovation, aims to empower women to navigate their health journey with confidence and clarity.

Maria Shriver, founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention and Research Center at Cleveland Clinic, will serve as chief visionary and strategic advisor.

“I’ve always believed our nation needed a first-class comprehensive women’s health center, and now we have one,” said Shriver.

“Over the past several years, I’ve been honoured to work alongside so many talented and passionate doctors at Cleveland Clinic to bring this vision to life. This is a place for women at every stage of life where they will feel seen, will get the research they need, and the care they deserve, from their brains to their bones.

“I am thrilled that today the WAM Prevention and Research Center expands, as it deserves to.”

Dr Tom Mihaljevic, Cleveland Clinic CEO and president, said: “Maria’s unwavering commitment to raising awareness and driving meaningful change aligns perfectly with the mission of our new center.

“Her passion for advancing the quality of care for women is remarkable and will help us transform how we deliver care for women today and into the future.”

The population of women in midlife and in need of healthcare continues to grow. According to US Census Bureau 2020 data, more than 63 million women in the US are 50 years of age or older, and approximately 6,000 women enter menopause each day.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 80 per cent of women aged 55 and older have at least one chronic condition, such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes, which strengthens the need for more comprehensive medical care for women in this stage of life.

The new Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center will bring together specialty care in various areas, including behavioural health, breast health, cardiovascular care, center for infant and maternal health, endocrinology, menopause, osteoporosis and metabolic bone density, wellness and disease prevention.

Through initiatives focused on streamlining appointment processes, enhancing outreach programmes and prioritising health equity, the center will seek to ensure that all women can readily access the care they need.

“Midlife is an important milestone and a time to empower women to address health issues and focus on future health,” said Dr Beri Ridgeway, chief of staff at Cleveland Clinic.

“Taking a holistic approach, including menopausal and hormonal health, reproductive health, mental health, chronic conditions and preventive care, is critical to optimise health outcomes.

“Our priority is to help women in this stage of life make educated decisions about their health and have access to the services they need to thrive, while also feeling seen, heard and supported.”

The center, Ridgeway said, will offer support groups and resources to help address health disparities, reach diverse communities and bridge gaps in health literacy.

The institution’s ultimate mission, she explained, is to advance research and innovation specific to women during midlife.

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