Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Mind the (Gender Health) Gap
Painful or irregular periods, questions about family planning, hormonal issues, menopause, vaginal discomfort, urinary issues, and other signs of ill health that are unresolved. The list of women’s health issues goes on and on. Start a conversation about women’s health and the stories come pouring out. You hear about women whose pain was dismissed by doctors, and friends who had missed or delayed critical diagnosis. Start to tap into the topic and you will find almost every woman you speak with has suffered personally or knows of someone who has.
Even though there are over 33million women within the UK, women’s health is a drastically under-funded and under-supported area. Women feel alone, ignored, and let down. But in reality women are not alone at all. In fact we all have something critical in common – a massive women’s health gap.
According to the Government’s new Women’s Health Strategy published last month, in the UK 8 in 10 women said they felt they are not listened to by healthcare professionals. Women also feel that their medical issues are a lower priority compared to other health services. And their feelings are justified. The UK has been found to have one of the worst health gaps in all of the G20 countries. This problem isn’t getting better fast. In the past few years there have been severe cuts in services for sexual health, midwifery, and mental health services. All of this before the additional huge impact COVID has had on women’s health issues.
In late 2021, Sophia Health Co-Founders Caitlin Gould and Dr. Rose Abbott met at a postnatal core exercise class. It was a private class that we both ended up booking after having found no support for our concerns about diastasis recti (separated stomach muscles) and pelvic floor health from our local health services. After class, we often grabbed a coffee and shared birth stories with other mums in the group. There was always plenty to discuss from fertility journeys, the trauma of emergency C-sections, baby loss, to the joys and challenges of a new baby. But the discussions kept coming back to the topic of the lack of services and information, feeling unempowered with our own health when seeing clinicians, and frustrations with the perinatal care provided. This soon expanded into frustrations beyond pregnancy and into a lifetime of frustration around women's health issues.
As a practicing female GP, Rose shared that her clinics were regularly filled with women whose questions were predominantly women’s health based. Things they didn’t feel they could talk to previous male GP’s about. Some problems that women had been suffering in silence with for years. In the past 12 months more books, articles and podcasts have also started highlighting the huge amount of harm being done to women, due to lack of research, knowledge and bias within the medical industry. Suddenly the problem seemed to be everywhere, but where was the solution. With an issue this big impacting millions of people every day, someone must be doing something about it.
We both started researching what is already available to women and found the current provisions mainly focused on pregnancy support and period trackers. But women’s health is so much more than just reproduction. What does exist is done by individuals or charities. In a time of huge tech innovation and a digital health revolution, where was the investment in women’s health? Having worked within the software industry, Caitlin had also seen firsthand a number of women’s health start-ups created by men and with a fully male development and product team.
There is never a perfect time to start a business and for us, the timing was not perfect (start-ups and young babies are not exactly an ideal combination). But the problem was too great to ignore, and to be honest we were too frustrated to let it go. So we decided to do something about it and set out to change how women access health advice and care.
Launching Sophia Health
Sophia Health is currently in its early infancy, but we have an outlook dedicated to rapid growth and development. As we know that information is a critical first step we are starting with content. Working with medical professionals from a range of backgrounds, we are pulling together a wealth of up to date evidence based information for women in the key areas of gynaecology, sexual health, perinatal health, menopause health, breast health and other often overlooked women’s general health issues.
But we don't plan to stop there. Women’s Health is a vast area and we will deliver a multi-faceted approach to the problem. We have plans for online communities, courses, and direct access to female practitioners.
Sophia Health has never been more needed than now. Not only do we have a centuries old gap in healthcare advice and access for women but the recent global pandemic has caused further isolation, inequality and hardship for women’s health. So watch this space, 2022 is the year we begin to build this platform and bridge the Women’s Health gap.
Would you like to get involved?
If you want to join us on this journey please get in touch. We will be looking to recruit female medical practitioners to help create our content and eventually to provide remote women’s health advice. We are also looking for early beta users to give us feedback on the platform.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with our team.