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Women's Health: a life course approach

Online event

Overview

This symposium, jointly hosted by the Royal Society and Academy of Medical Sciences, will explore innovative, evidence-based health technologies and interventions that can benefit women during the different stages of their lives.

Women's Health

Background

In the UK, 51% of the population and 47% of the workforce are women, yet the funding for research of women’s health is much less than for research of men’s health issues. The resulting unmet health needs of women present a major health inequality but also a significant market opportunity for gendered innovation. Recent appreciation of this has led to a surge of investment into new technologies and treatments in the women’s health sector, including the ongoing growth of a $35bn ‘fem tech’ market. Many such innovations offer exciting opportunities for a personalised and preventive approach to women’s health across a life course, but it is critical that these advances are evidence-based and inclusive, to maximise benefits to women and avoid unintentional harms.

This meeting will explore some novel health interventions that support women to live healthily through the major transitions of their life. Speakers will discuss examples of innovative research, therapies and technologies that benefit women’s health and consider how to overcome some of the societal challenges and barriers to building systems, in healthcare and beyond, that meet the needs of all women at different stages of their lives. 

About the conference series

Supported by AstraZeneca, the meeting will form part of the Royal Society’s Transforming our future conferences in the life sciences, and the Academy of Medical Sciences’ FORUM programme. These meetings are unique, high-level events that address the scientific and technical challenges of the next decade. Each conference features cutting edge science from industry and academia and brings together leading experts from the scientific community, including regulatory, charity and funding bodies.

Accessibility and safer space policy

The Royal Society and Academy of Medical Sciences aim to have an inclusive environment for everyone engaged in the organisations' work. At this event our approach to seek diversity is not to use differences to further marginalise groups without power or those who experience systemic exclusion. Please note that auto-captions will be available and a summary of the talks will be written and sent to registrants after the meeting. Some of the talks may be recorded and made available after the meeting, however, these may be limited.

Full details of the ethos and expectations for this event can be found in the safer space policy.

Event organisers

Select an organiser for more information

Schedule of talks

18 October

13:00-13:05

Opening Remarks

13:05-13:50

Keynotes

4 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Professor Philippa Saunders FMedSci, University of Edinburgh

13:05-13:20 A wholistic life course approach to women's health

Neena Modi, Professor of Neonatal Medicine, Imperial College London

Abstract

In this brief presentation I will discuss the determinants of health, what is meant by a life-course approach, and its components. I will explain why the determinants of health largely lie outside healthcare, and why women remain disadvantaged in relation to the development of diagnostics and therapeutics targeting their needs. Finally, I will discuss why this is an issue that that has wide societal and trans-generational implications and how current economic and other policies present barriers to redressing the current situation. 

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13:20-13:30 An evidence-based approach: fair representation and early intervention

Baroness Nicola Blackwood, Chair, Genomics England

Abstract

Baroness Blackwood will talk about the need for more disaggregated data to help women make evidence based decisions about their health. For example, the lack of research into drugs during pregnancy risks both mother and child - putting this right is a significant and overdue intervention. Genomic sequencing combined with multiomic data, meanwhile, is already providing women with meaningful clinical insight that can help with difficult decisions. The proposed NHS Genomics England Newborn Sequencing Pilot is intended to see if these benefits can be seen even earlier in the life course.

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13:30-13:35 Dealing with a chronic condition

Candice McKenzie, Founder, Endo Warriors West Lothian

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13:35-13:50 Q&A

Baroness Nicola Blackwood, Chair, Genomics England
Neena Modi, Professor of Neonatal Medicine, Imperial College London
Candice McKenzie, Founder, Endo Warriors West Lothian

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13:50-13:55

Break

13:55-15:35

Successful interventions across the life course

6 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Professor Philippa Saunders FMedSci, University of Edinburgh

13:55-14:10 The menstrual health and wellbeing of young women

Professor Hilary Critchley, Professor of Reproductive Medicine, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh

Abstract

The term "menstrual health" is increasingly used but suffers with lack of a consistent definition. Others highlight the breadth of menstrual health issues. Periods (menstruation) have been far too long taboo and understudied. We need to talk about periods, break taboos around menstruation, educate young people who menstruate, their parents, and communities about this normal physiological process. Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) is a common and too often a hidden reproductive health problem reported across the reproductive life span:  a source of embarrassment, school/ college absences, affecting relationships, mental health and work. Heavy menstrual bleeding is a leading cause of anaemia and iron deficiency globally. This debilitating symptom may not be life-threatening, but it is life-altering. We need a deeper understanding of menstruation. It is a natural physiological event and is a remarkable “wound” that repeatedly repairs each month.

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14:10-14:25 The sexual health and wellbeing of women: The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles

Professor Pam Sonnenberg, Institute for Global Health, UCL

Abstract

The National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles - Natsal - are among the largest bio-behavioural surveys of sexual behaviour in the world. Natsal was first run in 1990 and has taken place approximately every 10 years since, with over 45,000 people having taken part to date. The random probability sample design means that the results are broadly representative of the British general population. 

As serial probability surveys, Natsal provides a comprehensive picture of the sexual health of the nation and shows how this has changed over time and across generations. Natsal has captured striking changes in people born over much of the 20th Century (e.g. the decline in age at first sex) and provides the evidence-base for major sexual and reproductive health interventions and monitoring their impact.

Using data from Natsal, this talk will describe the sexual lifestyles of women over the life-course, as well as interventions to improve sexual and reproductive health.

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14:25-14:40 Pelvic floor dysfunction after childbirth: can we predict and prevent it?

Professor Suzanne Hagen, Deputy Director, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University

Abstract

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common problem after childbirth. The prevalence of postnatal PFD (urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse) varies in the literature according to definition, method of data collection and follow-up duration. Few studies have followed a large cohort to monitor the prevalence over time. In our longitudinal study, a population of 7,879 primiparous and multiparous women were originally recruited three months after giving birth. We have continued to follow up our birth cohort; 4,214 women responded at 6 years after index birth, and 3,763 at 12 years.  We present here the analysis of data collected in the UK from this multicentre study on the prevalence of PFD 26 years after index birth according to delivery mode history. We also discuss how these data can be used to help predict which women are at risk of PFD and how this might be prevented.

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14:40-14:55 Using digital technology to empower women about their health

Jenny Thomas, Programme Director, DigitalHealth.London

Abstract

FemTech, short for ‘Female Technology’, refers to services, products and software which are created with a specific focus for those who identify as women. This area of technology represents a real opportunity to revolutionise the NHS and other health systems by making improvements in health and care that can benefit all women, including trans-women and non-binary individuals that may benefit from FemTech services. Solutions can be as simple as a period tracker app, to life-saving cervical and breast cancer detection, reducing the time to diagnosis for conditions such as endometriosis and improved services for adolescent mental health. More importantly, FemTech has the potential to help those who identify as women, to understand their bodies and empower them to manage their own health. There are many in the NHS who like me, are excited about the opportunities of health technology to be a force for good, and there are now a growing number who also recognise the specific opportunities that exist through FemTech. Join our symposium to find out more about FemTech, the importance of evidenced based, inclusive solutions, and why you and your organisation should embrace FemTech now.

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14:55-15:10 Menopause: the unmet need and exploration of the potential role of a non-hormonal treatment for symptoms

Dr Mary Kerr, CEO, NeRRE Therapeutics

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15:10-15:35 Q&A

Professor Hilary Critchley, Professor of Reproductive Medicine, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh
Professor Pam Sonnenberg, Institute for Global Health, UCL
Professor Suzanne Hagen, Deputy Director, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University
Jenny Thomas, Programme Director, DigitalHealth.London
Dr Mary Kerr, CEO, NeRRE Therapeutics

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15:35-15:45

Break

15:45-16:35

Panel discussion

1 talk Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Dr Pauline Williams CBE FMedSci, GSK

Diversity and inclusion, empowerment of women in women's health and the importance of an evidence-based approach

A. Metin Gülmezoglu, Executive Director, Concept Foundation
Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Secretary General, International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Dr Christine Ekechi, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
Dr Lilian Hunt, EDIS, Wellcome Trust

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16:35-16:40

Closing Remarks

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