The State Of Women’s Health In England And The Journey Leave a comment


By developing and implementing The Women’s Health Strategy in 2022, the U.K. has become one of the … [+] most forward-thinking countries globally aiming to improve women’s health outcomes


The Women’s Health Strategy for England was developed and published in 2022 in response to the growing recognition of the unique health needs and challenges faced by women in England (and the U.K.) and was brought forward to address longstanding gaps in women’s healthcare and to promote better health outcomes for women across the country.

The strategy is driven by a combination of factors, including increasing awareness of gender disparities in healthcare, the need to address issues such as reproductive health, mental health, and violence towards women, and a commitment to promoting women’s rights and equality, and has emerged as a response to calls from various advocacy groups, healthcare professionals, and women themselves who highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach to women’s health that goes beyond just reproductive and maternal health (the open call for evidence has received almost 100,000 responses from women across the country, and over 400 written submissions from organizations and experts in health and care).

Women’s Health And The Role Of A Government

By developing and implementing this strategy, the U.K. government has become one of the most forward-thinking governments globally aiming to improve women’s health outcomes and ensure that women receive the care and support they need throughout their lives, and this move has highlighted how it is crucial for governments to include women’s health matters in their policies and strategies.

There are many reasons why the topic of women’s health should be included in every government’s agenda. Firstly, women have specific health needs that differ from those of men, such as reproductive health, including family planning, menstrual health, and menopause, which require tailored approaches and services. Secondly, gender-based violence and discrimination significantly impact women’s health and wellbeing, so by incorporating women’s health matters into policies, governments can work towards preventing and addressing violence against women, promoting gender equality, and creating safer environments. Finally, women often face disparities in access to healthcare, including issues of affordability, availability, and cultural barriers, so addressing these to ensure that women have equitable access to healthcare services, screenings, and treatments is a matter of public health discussion.

Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Women’s Health Ambassador for England

Professor Dame Lesley Regan

“Having spent my career working with and caring for women, it is a great honor to be appointed as Women’s Health Ambassador and to witness first-hand the progress we’re making in raising the profile of women’s health. From announcing £25 million in new funding for women’s health hubs to be set up across England, improving access and quality of information on women’s health issues, and supporting women’s health in the workplace – these are significant achievements made in less than a year since we launched the strategy,” shares Professor Dame Lesley Regan with me.

She highlighted how It is important that the strategy reaches all women and girls – which is why so many healthcare professional groups and women’s health charities have agreed to help promote the Women’s Health Strategy and collaborate with the teams at the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England.

“We’ve also worked with suppliers to make hormone replacement therapy (HRT) more accessible to more women, by reducing its cost to under $25 (£20) for a year’s worth of supply. Ultimately, only collectively we will be able to tackle the unacceptable differences in health outcomes for all women across England, regardless of their ethnic, religious, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds,” she added.

While the Strategy sets out national aims and ambitions, it is important to recognise the variation of services available, and the need to address the inequalities in access and experience of healthcare.

Dr. Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists


Dr. Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists highlighted how, although the Women’s Health Strategy included a call for evidence to ensure that the strategy listened to women, Asian women were underrepresented relative to the estimated population overall – with only 2% of respondents from women from an Asian ethnic background. Women who were under 25 or 60 years and over were also underrepresented in responses.

“It is vital that there is further engagement with groups who weren’t adequately represented in the original call for evidence, so the initiatives within the strategy can improve the care and experiences of women and tackle health inequalities. There is an urgent need to address the unacceptable disparities that persist in maternity care, and additionally, one of the commitments of the strategy is to improve research about a variety of different women’s health issues. There is a data gap and historically women have been under-represented in research. Black, Asian, and ethnic minority women are even less likely than white women to be included in research, so it is important to ensure that a diverse range of women are represented in clinical trials and research,” she added.

Looking at the management of gynecological conditions, Thakar admits how she is aware that struggling to access the right care and support is not a new experience for women and is the result of a lack of investment and attention given to women’s healthcare historically. She went on to highlight how prioritization of care as part of NHS recovery must look beyond clinical need to also consider the wider impacts on patients waiting for care. “There needs to be a shift in the way gynecology is prioritized as a specialty across the health service, including action to move away from using the term ‘benign’ to describe gynecological conditions.”

Ultimately, there is also a need for cross-Governmental working. “Every Government department has a role to play in improving women’s health outcomes, from the Department for Education harnessing opportunities to improve education and awareness, to the role of the Department for Work and Pensions in improving workplace support for women around menopause and gynecological health. There is an important role for the Department of Education to improve education about health. Relationships and sex education (RSE) are now compulsory in secondary schools in England, but there is still variation across the system of what is taught. A high-quality education in school can ensure that women and girls have the knowledge to recognize when they are experiencing something that is not normal for them, and when they should seek help. Every health professional has a role to play in tackling stigma and giving women the ability to protect their health, improve symptoms they may develop, and recognize when to seek help.”

And although the Strategy looks ahead to the next ten years and commits to developing a delivery plan for the commitments, Thakar hopes to see this delivery plan looking at measurable, women-focused achievements – improving women’s experiences of, and access to healthcare and improving health outcomes. Investment in the monitoring and evaluation of each initiative will ensure that there is robust evidence to measure how women’s health has been improved and demonstrate what the Strategy has achieved. “To ensure that initiatives are being achieved, we need to see the Government commit to publish updates. We would like to see year-on-year actions on tackling different aspects of the strategy and the success of the initiatives introduced.”

The Case For Investment In Women’s Health

For Chantal Cox, a venture capital investor who sits on the health team at Octopus Ventures, innovation in women’s health space is all about leveraging technology to unlock three very real challenges this industry is facing at the moment – “the women’s health education gap, the limited diversity in the data that underpin innovation in the space, and the lack of resources (mostly staff).”

Chantal Cox is a venture capital investor who sits on the health team at Octopus Ventures

Chantal Cox

“Technology has the potential – when rolled out at scale – to democratize health education, turbocharge research, and alleviate the increasing burden that a growing, diverse population has on a service that is squeezed at every level.”

When it comes to women’s health, she and her team are open-minded and remain curious. She admits how, ideally, they’d love to see increased access to more women’s healthcare solutions improving the quality of life for billions of women. Two of their recent investments include Vira Health – whose core product is Stella – an app that supports women through menopause with science-backed personalized treatment, and Tuune – a company delivering evidence-based treatment plans built by doctors for doctors.

“Historically, women’s health topics have often been referred to as ‘taboo’ topics. One could argue that this is making the mountain even trickier to climb for women’s health founders, who are unfortunately still often pitching to male investors. Given that the women’s health narrative is finally taking center stage – it might be time to drop the ‘taboo’ label and recognize that investment into this arena is table stakes,” explains Cox.

When it comes to a personalized approach to women of color, Cox is aware of how experiences and outcomes vary greatly between groups and so there will never be a silver bullet or ‘one size fits all’ solution. She adds how she has great admiration for and believes that we could all learn a lot from the multitude of charitable organizations doing incredible work in this space. “An example of this would be Five X More which is dedicated to raising awareness about the shocking morbidity and mortality statistics for Black mothers in the U.K.,” she adds.

Rebecca Baldwin, Portfolio Director for the Women’s Health Innovation Series (WHIS)

Rebecca Baldwin

For Rebecca Baldwin, Portfolio Director for the Women’s Health Innovation Series (WHIS), a global conference series connecting businesses and organizations across the ecosystem of women’s health to drive innovation, investment, research, and partnerships, innovation must be at the heart of improving women’s health care in England, both in terms of the technology created and its implementation, but also in the approach of how we listen to and respond to women’s needs. “Women have been so neglected in the conversations regarding their health, (the Women’s Health Survey for England is just one data point that reflects this) that a seismic shift will need to take place to balance the scales.”

“One of the most exciting things about my role is that I get to spend the majority of my time speaking to leaders from across the women’s health industry globally. From femtech founders to directors at pharmaceuticals, consultants, doctors, patient advocates, or lawyers, I hear from a passionate ecosystem about the opportunities in front of us for improving women’s health and health equity, and the challenges ahead in getting there.”

Over the last five years, Baldwin has watched this space gain momentum through increased investment, a rising number of new startups, and the voices of celebrities, politicians, mayors, doctors, and influencers getting louder. “From Davina McCall to Hilary Clinton, Eric Adams, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Serena Williams, the unique challenges of women are finally being brought to the central stage for the discussion.”

One of the key trends she is starting to see, particularly in the U.S., is a recognition that women’s health expands beyond reproductive health or else fertility and pregnancy. Whilst of course, these should continue to be critical areas for investment and innovation, she added how she is “pleased to see that the conflation of the two terms is beginning to break down, and an understanding that there are diseases and challenges that solely, differently, or predominantly affect women that have been long neglected and that these areas are ripe for innovation.”

Central to the discussions and ecosystem of ‘women’s health’, must be the patient. The patient’s voice, stories and (unmet) needs must be the starting point. Innovation is pointless without their input. “It is without the patient voice, that assumptions are made, opportunities are missed, and women are left misunderstood and let down by their care systems,” Baldwin concludes.

Leave a Reply