This is the year to invest in women’s health. Here’s why – Yahoo Finance

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Anu Duggal, the founding partner at Female Founders Fund, guest wrote today’s Term Sheet essay on how women’s health has been ignored for most of history, and why this is the year to double down.

After her doctor misdiagnosed her perimenopause as herpes, Halle Berry knew it was time to open a national conversation. Earlier this Women’s Health Month, the actress joined a group of U.S. senators outside the Capitol Building to call for more federal funding for research into a critical part of the female experience that should not be hard to fund, let alone discuss. “The shame has to be taken out of menopause,” she said. “We have to talk about this very normal part of our life that happens.”

Just having this public conversation is groundbreaking. Ten years ago, the word “menopause” was barely uttered. “Women’s health” as a category did not exist for patients, entrepreneurs, employers, or investors. You’d have been shocked to find fertility care, maternity benefits, or IVF offered by America’s largest employers. Back then, my industry—venture capital—did not even consider women’s health an investable category.

Against that backdrop, almost exactly 10 years ago, I met Kate Ryder. Then a former journalist, Kate wanted to tackle the infamously-bureaucratic, slow-moving healthcare industry–a system that is hesitant to adopt new technology and, until recently, treated women’s health just like men’s health, ignoring the complex hormonal changes throughout a woman’s life. In fact, the inclusion of women in clinical trials did not become law until the early 1990s.


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Kate’s vision—for a healthcare experience that would put the female patient at the center of care for the first time—was incredibly compelling and visionary. My firm, Female Founders Fund, went on to write one of our first checks to Maven Clinic, getting a front-row seat as Kate built the first women’s health unicorn. Maven Clinic is now worth $1.35 billion and serves more than 2,000 employers, including giant corporations like Microsoft and AT&T. But more important than the statistics is that Kate convinced employers that it is imperative to provide better benefits for women, and she helped prove to venture investors—and the medical industry—that women’s health has massive potential as a business that is well worth the investment.

Since then, I’ve seen the tide shift as more and more founders and investors put money into women’s health. A great example: A few years ago, I was pitched by two women building a more holistic care model for pregnancy, combining the best aspects of obstetric care and midwifery care into an evidence-based birth program tailored to each mother’s unique wants and needs. And with the U.S. having the worst maternal mortality rate of all developed nations, the pregnancy and birthing experience needed to change. Adrianne and Elaine of Oula were convinced that there was a better solution, again putting the female patient experience at the center.

Oula has now raised more than $50 million in funding from investors, including Female Founders Fund, and has facilitated over 1,500 births with a 26% better C-section rate compared to New York City benchmarks and a 61% lower preterm birth rate—all while maintaining an NPS customer experience score greater than 90.

Just as encouraging are the successful startups that are not inside our portfolio.

Midi Health provides virtual care for women in menopause and perimenopause, and the results of this well-tailored care have been incredible. Around 91% of their patients report improving symptoms after just two months of care. Over 94% of patients see improvement in hot flashes in three months, 93% of patients report less insomnia in the first five months and 92% claim their moods improved in just two months. The company has raised over $100M to date, provides care in all 50 states, and now partners with major healthcare systems like Memorial Hermann and benefit-providers like Progyny and Cleo.

And there are many other examples over the last decade, such as Kindbody, Carrot, Clue, Alife Health, that show things are changing. Women are benefiting from improved solutions across a multitude of life experiences: menopause, IVF, endometriosis, fertility, hormone health, childbirth, osteoporosis, cancer diagnosis, and much more. The social momentum is building, too. Advocates like Elaine Welteroth and Serena Williams are raising awareness of critical issues of better maternal options with the launch of the Birth Fund earlier this year. Last year, President and Dr. Biden announced $100 million for women’s health initiatives and called on Congress to invest $12 billion in research—a move that was widely and rightly applauded. Of course, despite the progress, we still have a long way to go. Disproportionate funding is allocated toward diseases primarily affecting men, while the majority of medical professionals are still brushing off women’s pain instead of treating it.

But if there’s ever been a year to capitalize on the momentum of women, it’s this year; It’s right now, as the medical community finally begins to acknowledge women have evolving health needs across each stage of their lives.

You can read the full essay here.

Anu Duggal
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