It is time, Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Co-Founder of the Promise Fund of Florida, said, to choose between fear and progress. Breast cancer screenings decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, eroding some efforts that Susan G. Komen Foundation, and others, have made toward lowering mortality. Saving one life, she said, has an impact on many others. Without data, though, it is challenging to know where to begin.
Continuing on the idea of data, Stephen MacMillan, Chairman, President & CEO of Hologic, Inc., explained his company’s new endeavor with Gallup, the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, to develop a comprehensive study of women’s health worldwide, providing a roadmap for policymakers and governments to understand and improve women’s health outcomes over regions and over time. Hologic partnered with Gallup because polls are their core competency. Through 120,000 interviews in 140 languages, the teams gathered crucial data about women’s health. Only 12% of women were screened for cancers over the last year, even as millions died. Breast and cervical cancers specifically are best treated when they are detected early. Billions of people did not visit a doctor at all. MacMillan expressed his hope that the Index can help improve the quality of women’s health programs worldwide.
Paige Cunningham, Health Reporter at The Washington Post, asked the panelists to discuss the vulnerability of women’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Monica Geingos, First Lady of the Republic of Namibia, explained her nation’s challenge with healthcare access. Namibia has a large geography and small population, so delivering health services is difficult. Women disproportionately lost employment during the pandemic and were infected at higher rates. Interestingly, Madame Geingos noted that women suffered fewer deaths than men despite the higher infection rates—a phenomenon also seen with HIV.
MacMillan suggested that there would be a revolution in women’s healthcare if companies and governments put 10% of the effort they put into fighting COVID-19. Women’s health took a step backward during the pandemic even as they remained the healthcare decision makers for their families. Geingos agreed that lack of funding remains a challenge. Despite the challenges, however, Geingos highlighted positive changes in women’s representation in political office and young feminists in Africa who are forcing issues onto the agenda. Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the First Lady named misinformation coming from the U.S. as problematic for her country’s recovery.
Finishing the discussion on an uplifting note, MacMillan described that while the Index will factor in longer-term plans, he is confident that it will drive positive change by 2030 and may ultimately have a bigger impact on the world than Hologic’s healthcare products do.
We are now, more than ever, at a crossroads for humans to come together and act as we face unprecedented dangers.
As we think long term, we’ve truly talked about how this Index may have a bigger impact on humanity than any product we’ve ever invented.
When women do have access to health services, they utilize it and it saves their lives.
It’s one thing to collect data, but obviously it needs to be useful to policymakers.