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The Push for Health Equity

The Global Women’s Health Index, now in its third year of gathering and reporting on data, has troubling news about the state of women’s health worldwide. It is not good, and it has not been improving. The index represents a collaboration between Gallup, the global research and consulting firm, and Hologic, a publicly traded US company specializing in women’s health products and lab technologies.

After its inception in 2020, the index identified 5 key dimensions for understanding and potentially improving women’s health: preventive care, emotional health, opinions of health and safety, basic needs, and individual health. Three years into the survey, which most recently included 147,000 women across 143 countries and territories, scores across all dimensions are virtually unchanged.

Among the greatest areas of concern in the survey are low rates of testing for deadly diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, STDs and cancer, worsening emotional health (including when compared to men), increasing numbers of women experiencing pain, and a lack of personal safety (which affects more than 4 in 10 women worldwide aged 15 to 24). Reported by country, the survey results paint a geographically unsurprising picture of better scores in the United States, Northern Europe, East Asia and Australia. But no country scored better than a 72 out of 100, with even the United States and others suffering from well-known obstacles to quality care.

Another recent report helps quantify not only the problem, but the opportunity that exists if these shortfalls can be reduced. According to the study, put out by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and McKinsey, closing gaps in women’s health care could add $1 trillion annually to the global economy by 2040 alone. The study identifies several action items to address the women’s health gap, including investment in women-centric research, data collection, and innovation, increased access to care, and more inclusive health policies.

With its own global report receiving wide media attention and providing a high-level benchmark for the kind of women-centric research called for in the WEF study, Hologic appears well-positioned to answer the call. For instance, the company’s Global Access Initiative uses the company’s Panther diagnostic system to make molecular diagnostic testing—for HIV, HCV, HBV, HPV and COVID-19—more widely available and affordable across a dozen countries in Africa, with access for many more countries planned. Within its first few years of operation, and in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and MedAccess (a UK government-backed entity), the Global Access Initiative reports nearly one million patients identified who were not virally suppressed, and $45 million in direct savings thanks to the company’s all-inclusive pricing model for testing.

Another Hologic initiative, the company’s Project Health Equity, “invests in organizations making an impact and driving positive change in the lives of medically-underserved communities.” These organizations include the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, Rad-Aid International, and more. The company also reports that its Intellectual Property (IP) group is working to create better access and incentives for women scientists to submit for patents, with the company’s share of women inventors—and of patents submitted by women—already significantly above the US average. The company additionally conducts annual, third-party pay equity audits to address any gender-based discrepancies in pay across its employee base.

Like any company, Hologic has social and environmental areas where it could perform better. While more than half of the company’s board directors are women, the company’s leadership team of twelve has nine men, including the CEO. And Hologic has yet to set emissions targets ratified by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), although it says this work is in progress.

But with Hologic’s core business model focused on women’s health, along with its broad range of initiatives and partnerships around the world also focused on the subject, we view the company as a model for corporate leadership in improving the physical and mental health of women. And we believe this focus creates an opportunity to transform the health of communities, broadly defined, worldwide.