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WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH 2023: Women in Charge Providing Healthcare Innovations

After centuries of being dismissed, misdiagnosed, and inadequately researched, women are taking charge of their health care.

Here are some sickening statistics: Women are diagnosed an average of four years later than men for more than 700 diseases; women were not included in medical research until 1993; Twice as many funds are spent on research into diseases prevalent in men than in those prevalent in women.

Women in technology and medicine are working to close these gaps.

“I started Evvy after many of my own journeys of going to one too many doctor appointments, where I was told maybe I should drink more water, maybe I was too stressed, maybe I needed more sleep,” said Priyanka Jain, co-founder. from New York-based startup Evvy.

Lainie Bruzek, co-founder of Evvy, agrees. “It’s about how women are treated and the experiences that women have. So many women feel misunderstood, ignored, and left out in the doctor’s office. They give them a pain reliever,” she said.

Evvy is a home test that analyzes the vaginal microbiome and provides a wealth of information about health, including the presence of a UTI, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis. Vaginal discomfort is one of the main reasons women go to the doctor, but it is often misdiagnosed.

Importantly, Evvy delivers results directly to the user, empowering women with information, personalized recommendations, and treatment options. In addition, the data collected will be used to support research on women’s health.

Dr. Wendy Wilcox, director of women’s health, NYC Health + Hospitals and a board-certified OB-GYN, agrees that health equity is a key issue for women. And the stakes are high, especially these days.

Dr. Wendy Wilcox, Director of Women's Health, NYC Health + Hospitals

“His health affects his ability to work, to support his family. Health is a continuum, and everyone should have access to health care throughout their lives,” Wilcox said, noting the alarming disparities in health care for women.

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“The Journal of the American Medical Association recently showed that a woman and a man with the same cardiac risk factors will receive different drugs. A woman will be less likely to receive life-saving drugs,” she said.

It’s worse for women of color: Maternal mortality rates are much higher for black women, Wilcox said. “In New York state, black women are four times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth.”

A year ago, Wilcox would have identified maternal mortality as the key problem in women’s health, but times have changed. “Abortion care is medical care, she said. “Dobbs’ recent decision (removing the constitutional right to abortion) is ushering in a new era in women’s health care, and all women should be concerned. There will be a rebound in maternal mortality. They tiptoe around contraception and doctors don’t offer care for fear of retaliation. Health is increasingly tied to laws, legislation and government control.

With New York City’s health initiatives, new programs offered at the city’s hospitals, and a burgeoning community of health startups, New York is one of the best places for women. NYC Health + Hospitals offers medical and therapeutic abortions and has instituted programs to reduce maternal deaths. Its Maternal Medical Home program connects pregnant women with medical care, behavioral support and community services, and 321 Impact supports mothers from pregnancy through their children’s first years of life.

New York currently has a thriving community of healthcare startups, and most of them are led by women.

“People always ask, ‘Why are you in New York? As a healthcare technology company, you should be in San Francisco. Ninety-five percent of women’s health startups are in New York City, and there is a lot of learning, sharing and support between us,” Jain said. “There’s an incredible feeling of camaraderie. We can help a lot more women if we’re all successful,” Bruzek said.

For information on Evvy, visit evvy.com. For NYC Health + Hospitals: nychealthandhospitals.org

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