The 2022 Femtechnology Summit is underway this June 1st and 2nd, connecting healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, and those “simply seeking to understand what the term ‘FemTech’ even means”. Through FemTech, the range of software, diagnostics, products, and services that use technology to focus on women’s health, they seek to better understand how women are underserved in the current medical landscape and explore avenues for more equitable, lifesaving care.
Local FemTech Focus founder Dr. Brittany Barreto, a geneticist and serial entrepreneur is championing the fight for women’s health equality in the Triangle and beyond. Her work includes connecting professionals to erase gender inequality in medical research, healthcare investment, education, and more.
Gaps in Women’s Healthcare
In a recent TED Talk, Dr. Barreto pointed out the disparities in care between men and women in the healthcare industry. “What are other areas of women’s healthcare that are wildly underserved, and we don’t even know about it? [The healthcare industry] is optimized for males, and females suffer the consequences accordingly.”
Outlining the six steps that bring medical care to fruition – from funding and research down the line to distribution – Dr. Barreto details the ways women are disproportionately ignored or, in some cases, “protected from rather than protected by” medical research. Gaps in representation in each of these steps leave women in danger.
In one stunning graph (below), since 1985 medical advances have increased the life expectancy of men. In that same time period, research has found that women are suffering from either no change or a significant decrease in life expectancy.
Personal Generational Trauma
Recounting a personal story, Dr. Barreto illustrated the heartbreaking reality of this lack of representation of women. As a result of medical gaslighting, in which medical professionals downplay the concerns of women when they would not downplay the same concerns with a man, Dr. Barreto’s grandmother experienced an unnecessary stillbirth in 1961.
Her grandmother knew her due date but when the baby hadn’t arrived, the doctors insisted she must have calculated incorrectly. At ten and a half months pregnant, they finally agreed to break her water. Sadly, the baby was dead. In fact, she had known her correct due date, and her baby needlessly died as a result of medical gaslighting.
A similar situation happened in Dr. Barreto’s own birth in 1991. Thirty years after that family tragedy, Dr. Barreto’s mother was two weeks overdue with her, and knowing the horrific experience her own mother had decades earlier, she insisted on a C-section. Dr. Barreto was born with club feet, as she’d grown too large for her mother’s womb in those two weeks. That extra time in-utero required years of therapy.
“All of this could’ve been avoided if one, we invested in advanced maternal health diagnostics and medical devices, and two, if we believed women.”
A Path Forward with FemTech
To Dr. Barreto, it’s clear: more women need to be decision-makers in health care. That’s why she started FemTech Focus, a 501c3 non-profit organization to empower “entrepreneurs, investors, physicians, governments, and biopharma with resources and research to elevate women’s health and wellness globally.”
Now is the time to invest in women’s health innovations, according to FemTech. With an increase of women in STEM and finance roles, as well as an estimated $1 trillion market in women’s health solutions, women-centered health is within reach. With innovative research, continual funding, and a growing community of dedicated professionals, FemTech Focus is leading the charge in fostering better healthcare for women, females, and girls.
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