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At this week’s 2021 Annual Summit, Concordia Patron Sponsor Hologic, Inc. hosted a Main Stage session that called on global leaders to stand together to improve women’s health and quality of life. Featuring Hologic CEO Steve MacMillan, Madame Monica Geingos, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker and The Washington Post’s Paige Cunningham, the session explored the findings of the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index—the first study to represent the health of more than 2.5 billion women and girls. We caught up with Steve MacMillan following the session. 

Steve, what do you hope to achieve with the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index and how will it allow leaders to bring women’s health to the forefront of global discussions?

Women are the backbone of societies around the world, which is why women’s health should matter to all of us. But for far too long, women’s health has been on the back burner, and it is too important to continue to ignore. The ultimate goal for the Index is to provide an actionable, science-backed data roadmap for improving life expectancy and quality of life for women and girls worldwide. While we initiated the Index prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen the already precarious state of women’s health deteriorate as a result of COVID-19 – including postponed or canceled appointments for preventive care, increased poverty levels, and insufficient access to medical facilities and education. 

Our hope is that leaders use the Index as a step toward a strategic framework to improve women’s health in their respective country or territory. The Index data and five dimensions can offer guidance to leaders in developing actionable and measurable plans that prioritize women’s health. 

What do the results of the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index say about the current state of women’s health? How can leaders in both the private and public sectors come together to address inequalities within the global healthcare system, particularly as it pertains to women’s health?

The Index is the most comprehensive study on global women’s health ever – it represents the health of more than 2.5 billion women and girls. It is based on the experiences of more than 60,000 women and girls from 116 countries and territories, captured in more than 140 languages. The Index identifies five dimensions of women’s health that explain more than 80% of women’s average life expectancy at birth – preventive care, perceptions of health and safety, emotional health, individual health, and basic needs. 

Not surprisingly, the Index found that women’s health needs are not being met globally overall.  But the data tells a shocking story:

  • About 40% of those surveyed – equating to about a billion women and girls – said they had not talked to a healthcare professional in the last year.
  • While international testing standards differ, approximately 1.5 billion women had not been tested in the last year for four of the most damaging diseases for women: cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and sexually transmitted diseases/infections.  
  • Only 12% of women worldwide were screened in the last year for any type of cancer.  Cancer screening is a proven means of detecting many types of cancers earlier and treating them more effectively.
  • In nearly all regions, women who report first being pregnant before age 19 score worse in each of the five dimensions compared with women who first became pregnant later.
  • In 2020, worry, stress, sadness and anger continued to increase globally and set new records. About four in 10 women said they experienced worry and stress during a lot of the previous day.
  • Many women surveyed also expressed concerns about their safety and ability to meet basic needs like food and shelter. 

These findings warrant immediate and widespread cooperation and change from both the private and public sectors. Health is an investment that governments, companies, and communities around the world need to make, and investing in better care for women and girls can pay great dividends. 

Why do we need data to ensure a healthy future for women? What is the future for the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index? 

As a leader in the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of women’s health issues, we know firsthand that successful outcomes begin with an accurate diagnosis, which in this case is our Index.  We also know that what gets measured gets acted upon, and we saw a need for more robust, quality data to track and measure women’s health on a global level. This data is critical for development policymaking at a global, regional, and national level, but has been lacking until now. 

But the most important insight is to make sure that world leaders listen directly to women – their needs and perspectives – on their own health, lest they miss the most critical part of the issue.

As for the future of the Index, we are committed to conducting the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index on a regular basis and delivering the critical data needed for world leaders to take action on women’s health.

To learn more about Concordia’s collaboration with Hologic, click here. Stay tuned for the official 2021 Concordia Annual Summit Report, which will contain a summary and next steps of the session Perception on Women’s Health: Gaps Between Policy and Reality at the 2021 Annual Summit.