Initiative to develop female-centric products has 'potential to enable more equal healthcare system'

Initiative to develop female-centric products has 'potential to enable more equal healthcare system'

Dr Tanya Mulcahy, director of Health Innovation Hub Ireland. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

A new initiative to support and develop female-centric, tech-based healthcare products has “the potential to enable a more equal healthcare system”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Women make up half the population but less than 2% of global investment has focused on women’s health research, providing a huge, untapped market for entrepreneurs and opportunities to improve women’s healthcare, an event in University College Cork promoting Irish femtech heard.

Ireland can create a rich ecosystem for femtech — technology designed for women’s health and wellness — said Dr Tanya Mulcahy, director of Health Innovation Hub Ireland.

Women drive 70%-80% of all consumer purchasing and are the primary decision-makers when it comes to healthcare for themselves and their family, the conference heard.

Health Innovation Hub Ireland aims to stimulate and support the development of high-potential new products, services, and start-ups in femtech.

These solutions aim to impact women’s health and wellbeing, create an Irish femtech focus and build an ecosystem of experts and entrepreneurs supporting, driving, and innovating in femtech.

It will also aim to support the drive for more female founders and attract more investors to Ireland (more than 70% of femtech companies had female founders).

Professor John Higgins of Cork University Maternity Hospital said female patients are discerning in their healthcare, He believed female patients would be hugely enthusiastic about femtech developments while femtech could help solve problems in healthcare.

Attendees at the Launch Conference for Femtech @ Health Innovation Hub Ireland at UCC. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Attendees at the Launch Conference for Femtech @ Health Innovation Hub Ireland at UCC. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

He noted that older women, aged 50-65, had been particularly neglected in healthcare. “If you’re an entrepreneur and looking for ideas, there’s a big gap there,” he said.

Paula Newell of AVeta medical is one of those entrepreneurs addressing that gap. She said that women’s health has been underfunded and under-researched for far too long.

Her company devised a way to treat vaginal atrophy, also known as vaginal dryness, which more than 80% of women over 50 suffer from, she said.

Women describe feeling like they have sandpaper between their legs when walking, or like they are sitting on a bonfire, she said.

The condition impacts their everyday lives, their relationships, and their confidence, she said.

But their product, which is is non-hormonal, is based on the science of wound-healing to regenerate vaginal tissue.

“We want to bring women back to the life they once lived,” she said.

Mr Martin, speaking via a video address, welcomed the launch of the new femtech initiative at Health Innovation Hub Ireland.

“This new femtech initiative has the potential to help enable a more equal healthcare system,” he said.

“Historically, development and investment in exclusively female-focused health tech has been as low as 2% of total investment.”

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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