Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day which aims to recognise the achievements of girls and women across the world and raise awareness of the need for gender equality. This year’s global United Nations Women’s campaign centres around the theme of “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” and stresses the need for technology and innovation to advance gender equality.
Access to innovation and technology is essential across all aspects of one’s life. In recent years, it has also become critical in the field of health – in terms of new technological devices, telemedicine, and the digitalisation of health records, among many others.
As highlighted by IDF Europe’s former Chair, Dr Niti Pall, in IDF Europe’s publication on Delivering Value through Innovation in Diabetes Care Delivery, for diabetes, perhaps more than for any other condition, “new medicines, therapies and technologies coupled with novel digital tools and solutions and cutting-edge developments in healthcare delivery, have also truly revolutionised management and care, allowing many people to live their lives to the full, like never before”.
Diabetes does not affect women and men equally though. An increasing body of evidence suggests that women living with diabetes face specific challenges that can adversely affect their diabetes management as well as their health outcomes more than men.
Disparities in health outcomes and in the risk of developing complications between men and women living with diabetes are linked to a combination of biological differences as well as socioeconomic factors which hinder women’s access to healthcare and health-enabling environments [i; ii; iii]. Partly as a result,
- Women with type 1 diabetes (T1D) are at a 40% higher risk of premature death than their male counterparts.[i]
- Women with type 2 diabetes (T2D) have a 27% increased risk of stroke and a 44% increased excess risk of coronary heart disease than men.[i]
- Women living with diabetes are disproportionately affected by depression and anxiety which can negatively affect their ability to optimally manage the condition [i]
- Hormonal changes associated with menstrual cycles, menopause and pregnancy can make it difficult to manage blood glucose levels which, in turn, increases the risk of developing diabetes-related complications [iv]
- Women with gestational diabetes are at increased risk of developing complications and their children are also at increased risk of developing T2D [iv]
Innovations in the area of prevention, diabetes management and care delivery are critical for improving the quality of life of all people living with diabetes and can help reduce inequalities in health outcomes between men and women. Digital therapeutics and other advanced technologies have the potential to revolutionise diabetes care by offering personalized treatment options, real-time monitoring of blood sugar levels, and increased access to medical care and support.
Access to diabetes education is also essential for achieving optimal health outcomes for all people living with diabetes [v]. Education programmes that are tailored to the unique needs of both men and women can improve engagement, diabetes management and ultimately, quality of life [i].
On this International Women’s Day, let us remember the importance for women of accessing novel technologies and advanced therapies, which hold the potential not only to empower them in their care but also to improve their quality of life and health outcomes.