All of this is very welcome. But it’s vital that the wellness movement takes positive steps to advance female health and doesn’t peddle products or ideas founded in misinformation.
Evidence vs. groundless claims
Right now, industries focusing on female health and wellness have a golden opportunity to right some historic wrongs of mainstream medicine. Traditional approaches often marginalised or ignored female health issues, creating gender-based knowledge gaps with potentially harmful consequences.
New product development in the female health and wellness space should meet properly defined needs and any claims must be grounded in science. This goes for the full gamut of products, from nutritional supplements and sanitary pads to OTC thrush treatments and mood enhancing apps.
Understanding female physiology and ensuring wellness claims are underpinned by robust clinical trials is one part of the solution. But data also has a role to play. In the digital age we can gather and leverage an unprecedented depth and breadth of insights about women. We have new ways to understand the health and wellness concerns and priorities affecting women of different ages, life stages and ethnicity.
The femtech effect
Connected femtech products have the ability to generate a more complete picture of female health and wellness than we have ever seen before. They offer a route to engage directly with individuals, specific cohorts of women and the wider female population.
Using femtech to gather information about specific female health and wellness issues could prove hugely beneficial, enabling purposeful innovation rooted in principles such as diversity by design.
A critical factor here will be the quality and reliability of devices, apps and the data they harness. What’s more, they must tread a careful line between consumer and medical aspects of healthcare, ensuring any regulatory requirements are properly understood. At what point does that period tracking app advising on optimum time to conceive, skincare or nutritional needs constitute a medical device? This consideration is especially significant for apps or devices incorporating a diagnostic element.
A convergence of expertise
Traditional brands and new market entrants alike are keen to find relevant and meaningful ways to connect with consumers on digital platforms. The wellness trend can be an effective catalyst for this. Nevertheless, it’s a complex area demanding a special blend of expertise.
Product development might require input from biologists, chemists, engineers or nutritionists. Behavioural experts and digital designers that understand user needs from a female perspective also have a role to play. And guidance from professionals with regulatory expertise is essential.
As the landscape continues to evolve, industries focusing on female health and wellness have an opportunity and a responsibility. We need science-led approaches that improve health and wellness for all women at all stages of life, for now and for future generations.
Dr Eileen Buttimer is a biochemist with a strong career history in new product development and innovation management. At Oakland Innovation Eileen is the Managing Partner for Consumer Advisory, helping clients shape R&D strategy and support its execution. She recently authored a whitepaper exploring current trends in female health and wellness. It’s available to download free of charge on the Oakland Innovation website.