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Data-driven actions to help close the UK’s gender health gap

Elisa Sai
Oct 30, 2023

The gender health gap is a persistent worldwide issue, with women experiencing poorer health outcomes than men. The United Kingdom has the largest gap in the G20.Therefore, it is crucial for the UK to take concerted efforts to reduce gender healthcare disparity.

In 2022, a collaboration between Capgemini Invent and Women in Data resulted in the publication of Data-Driven Action to Close the Gender Health Gap, which identified key areas where health data fails women and offered recommendations to bridge this gap. Since its release, the UK has achieved notable progress, which this report will cover. Moreover, this report analyses Artificial Intelligence (AI) advancements in women’s healthcare and discusses the significant role of FemTech in improving healthcare outcomes, as well as recommendations for further improvement.

Advancements made in the past 12 months

Increasing women in senior leadership positions – In June 2022, Dame Lesley Regan was appointed the first Women’s Health Ambassador. Her role involves supporting the implementation of the Government’s ‘Women’s Health Strategy’. In March 2023, the Government appointed the first Menopause Employment Champion, Helen Tomlinson, to improve workplace support for women going through menopause.

Reviewing data collection methodologies – Women are routinely excluded from clinical trials, resulting in datasets that underrepresent women. Medical Research Council (MRC) introduced a new requirement in 2022 mandating the inclusion of both sexes in the experimental design of grant applications involving animals, human tissues, and cells. MRC have committed to only funding research that is relevant to, and benefits the whole of, society.

Embedding recognition of women’s health in data analysis – In February 2023, the UK Government launched The STEM ReCharge Initiative, encouraging women that take career breaks to return to STEM jobs. This helps to ensure women’s perspectives contribute to healthcare analysis. Addressing fragmentation, in the following month, the UK Government announced funding of £25 million to expand women’s health hubs. These hubs eliminate fragmented service provision by integrating aspects of care. To remove barriers to medical care, the UK Government announced the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC), enabling women to access HRT at a reduced cost.

Advancements in the private sector

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is partnering with patient advocacy groups which focus on women to support designing inclusive studies. Physicians will be trained to recruit diverse patients for clinical trials. AstraZeneca supports the ‘Girls Belong Here’ initiative, which highlights gender inequality. In 2022, Five young women took over senior leadership positions in three UK AstraZeneca locations as part of their ‘Girls Takeover’ day to small, women-led non-profit organisations.

In September 2022, FemTech Lab launched an innovation space dedicated to the FemTech community. In April 2023, Hertility published ‘The Inequality Report,’ based on data from thousands of women who have used their services. Showing the disproportionate impact of the gender health gap on black women, highlighting alarming statistics such as black women being nearly four times more likely to die during pregnancy or 6 weeks after childbirth compared to white women. This has contributed towards initiating change and fostering a more equitable healthcare system for women.

Future plans to tackle gender healthcare inequalities in the UK

In August 2022, the Government published the ‘Women’s Health Strategy in England’ report. This identified six key objectives: ensuring women’s voices are heard, improving access to services, addressing disparities amongst women, providing better information and education, focusing on women’s health in the workplace and supporting more research.

The strategy further categorises women into three key life stages: adolescents/young adults, middle years, and later years. By tailoring interventions to each stage, it aims to meet the changing needs of women and provide more effective healthcare.

Women’s workplace wellbeing – According to a UK Government survey, only one in three respondents felt comfortable discussing health concerns with their employer. The Health and Wellbeing Fund aims to deliver projects supporting women’s reproductive wellbeing in the workplace, encouraging women to remain in jobs.

Conclusion and further recommendations

This report has demonstrated significant progress since 2022 however, there is still much work to be done to bridge the gender health gap. Continued dedication from policymakers, healthcare providers, researchers, and society, is of the upmost importance to achieve gender parity.

The following domains have been pinpointed as areas of focus to effectively narrow the gender health disparity:

Fair representation of women in clinical trials – this should be a requirement from funders, sponsors, and regulators. Researchers must be mandated to monitor and disclose gender-related Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), ensuring a fair representation of women in these crucial studies.

Education – it has the power to bridge the gender health gap by establishing a universal understanding of women’s health, increasing public awareness, and driving positive change through comprehensive public education initiatives targeting all levels, from students to professionals.

Collaborative action for data disaggregation- the Government could work together with healthcare professionals to mandate the disaggregation of data within healthcare and allocate funding to support this process. By breaking down data, we can gain valuable insights and design more tailored interventions.

The FemTech industry exhibits significant growth opportunities – has the potential to collect a huge amount of female health data, FemTech companies could be given more grants to support their funding.

Investing in transparent and ethically minded technology to clean, compress, and encrypt collected data can be a positive step toward reducing biases during data processing.

Tackling bias in data analysis – gender should be prioritised in computer science curricula, and efforts made to increase gender diversity in the male-dominated technology workforce. Recruiting more women into data science positions is also crucial. While initiatives like Stem ReCharge are commendable, it is important to acknowledge their limitations (e.g., geographical restrictions).

There has been little progress so far with data consumption – Organising more forums and events for data scientists and healthcare professionals to share ideas and learn from one another would be invaluable.

Lastly, increasing data altruism is very important, women should be encouraged to share their health data as this would undoubtedly lead to positive impacts on women’s healthcare.

It takes a multifaceted strategy to address ongoing gender gaps in healthcare, including continuous improvements to policies, innovative initiatives in education, technology integration, and cooperative endeavours. By adopting these tactics, we may open the door to a future where women’s health is more equally distributed and inclusive.

Elisa Sai

Vice President
Elisa is a VP in within the Capgemini Analytics & AI Invent team and leads the Healthcare Analytics portfolio. She has a number of years of experience in delivering data led transformation programmes in the public sector and healthcare industries.