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Using computational models and patient avatars to improve women’s health care

Computational models, patient avatars and humanised models and other new research tools should be used to improve women’s health care. This represents a tremendous opportunity for the healthcare and life sciences community to improve the lives of women around the world, consultancy McKinsey says in a report on how to close women’s health gap.

“Investing in improving women’s health not only improves women’s quality of life but also enables them to participate more actively in the workforce and make a living. The potential value created through women’s higher economic participation and productivity exceeds the costs of implementation by a ratio of $3 to $1 globally.”

“Over the past two centuries, the rise in life expectancy—for both men and women—has been a tremendous success story.”

“But this is not the full picture. Women spend more of their lives in poor health and with degrees of disability. A woman will spend an average of nine years in poor health, which affects her ability to be present and/or productive at home, in the workforce, and in the community and reduces her earning potential.”

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The report says that critically, better health is correlated with economic prosperity. 

“The women’s health gap equates to 75 million years of life lost due to poor health or early death per year, the equivalent of seven days per woman per year. Addressing the gap could generate the equivalent impact of 137 million women accessing full-time positions by 2040.” 

“This has the potential to lift women out of poverty and allow more women to provide for themselves and their families. Addressing the drivers of this gap—namely, lower effectiveness of treatments for women, worse care delivery, and lack of data—would require substantial investment but also reflect new market opportunities.”

“While improving women’s health has positive economic outcomes, it is foremost an issue of health equity and inclusivity.” 

The report says that historically, men have both led and been the subject of the study of medicine and biology.

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“The majority of animal models have been based on male specimens. Questions about sex-based differences were rarely investigated or recorded, with the assumption—now known to be false—that there are few important differences in the functioning of organs and systems in men and women beyond reproduction.” 

A study shows that in cases where sex-disaggregated data was available, 64% of the interventions studied were found to put women at a disadvantage due to lower efficacy, more limited access, or both, while for men this was the case only for 10% of interventions 

The report says there is evidence of significant and systematic differences in diagnostic assessments between men and women that can affect the accuracy of calculations of the prevalence and burden for several diseases affecting women. 

A study conducted in Denmark showed that women were diagnosed later than men for more than 700 diseases. 

“There has been a historical underinvestment in women’s health research from the public, social, and private sectors. Funding sources typically overlook the fact that many conditions manifest differently in each sex, creating variances in outcome.”

“Closing the health gap will require increased investment not only for understanding sex-based differences but also for addressing unmet needs in women’s health. Further, additional funding and new business models could support sex- and gender-appropriate care.”

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