• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Low investment in women’s health unsettles providers

USAID tasks Nigerian government on health insurance for Nigerians

Providers from hands-on medical specialists to entrepreneurs enhancing logistics of medical kits for women are increasingly worried over low investment in women despite its potential economic impact.

Women’s limited access to specialised care, coupled with a lack of knowledge among some healthcare providers is driving this concern, raising serious questions about the effect on women’s wellbeing and lifespan.

Women spend 25 percent more time in poor health relative to men, according to the McKinsey Health Institute in a 2024 report on closing women’s health gap.

Some drivers of this gap include low effectiveness of treatments for women, worse care delivery, and lack of data required to enable substantial investment and reflect new market opportunities.

Another challenge highlighted by the institute is that women’s health is often simplified to include only sexual and reproductive health (SRH), which underrepresents women’s health burden.

It defines women’s health as covering both sex-specific conditions such as endometriosis and menopause and general health conditions that may affect women differently or disproportionately.

Ifeoluwa Dare-Johnson, chief executive officer of Healthtracka, a health logistics company that has raised about $1 million in funding, said investors still underrate the health business case due to lack of clarity. She said there was a lack of readily available solutions for the diverse health issues women face, which motivated the company to get involved.

It launched HPV self-sampling kits to empower women to perform cervical cancer screenings at home, increasing accessibility to this crucial test.

In addition to that, she believed that a key solution is a platform where women can connect, share information, and access resources. This platform would also create a space for dialogue with doctors, policymakers, and investors in women’s health.

This led to its first edition of the Banking on Women’s Health series, amplifying conversations on the challenges of accessing the right care.

“I think it has to do with the awareness, advocacy, and the understanding of how much this impacts everyone. When women are healthy, they take care of their children, their family, aged parents, and extended family,” Ifeoluwa Dare-Johnson.

“I’m hoping that this conference will create awareness and advocacy, and even corporates will begin to see how to invest in things that impact the society and move the needle.”

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the underdiagnosed diseases which are presented late in Nigeria, Adenekan Muisi, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital.

The condition is a constellation of a syndrome that includes enlarged ovaries. Rather than having one mature follicles released during ovulation, multiple are released, leading to the absence of menstruation or long menstrual intervals.

On endometriosis, Omotayo Ayeni, clinical lead, Iwosan Lagoon Hospital Mother and Centre, said despite existing knowledge gaps in management, significant progress has been recorded in awareness and diagnosis.

She said people managing the condition, including couples were increasingly engaging doctors on their chances of birthing.

“It has to do with the doctor and the medical training. You need somebody knowledgeable enough to manage you and explain to you in the details,” Ayeni urged women.

“For us doctors, we talk to ourselves during conferences for a better approach to management. I have counselled couples who became pregnant without IVF.”

Research shows that SRH and maternal, newborn, and child health account for approximately five percent of women’s health burden.

An estimated 56 percent of the burden comes from health conditions that are more prevalent and manifest differently in women.

The remaining 43 percent stems from conditions that do not affect women disproportionately or differently based on current evidence.

Also, women are most likely to be affected by a sex-specific condition between the ages of 15 and 50, according to the Mckinsey report.