Business Diversity Health, Wellness & Biotech Startups Venture

Women’s Healthtech Has A Policy Problem

Illustration of 50+ woman on smartphone. [Dom Guzman]

By Andrea Ippolito

Investors have seen the light. They have increasingly supported a growing number of female-led, women’s health startups. This is necessary and—speaking for more than just myself—appreciated.

But, there is a “but” here.

As an entrepreneur who founded a family health company, there is nothing that grinds my gears more than anyone dubbing women’s health as niche. Women make 80 percent of all health care decisions and 70 percent to 80 percent of all consumer-buying decisions. Thought leaders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem recognize this power, and yet women’s health startups are still climbing uphill.

Search less. Close more.

Grow your revenue with all-in-one prospecting solutions powered by the leader in private-company data.

What is holding us back? The system and its policies. Mired by entrenched bias, underestimated market opportunities, and unsupported systemic infrastructure and policy, it’s also underserved and underappreciated in the health care community.

Investment is only one piece of the transformation.

There is evidence surrounding the system’s level approaches for changing the game in women’s health across a number of different levers of policy, regulatory, workforce and processes to complement financial investment.

Implementing paid leave policies for both genders leads to greater economic prosperity for all. Supporting the health of women can reverberate for decades for her, her family and the economy. Between 1920 and 1970, studies showed that improving maternal health and reducing maternal mortality resulted in a 52 percent increase in labor force participation among women of reproductive age.

Supporting paid parental leave also gives parents the protected time to recover mentally and physically leading to better maternal health outcomes. Universal child care gives both parents (what a concept) the freedom to participate in the workforce if they choose, which not only pays for itself but also improves the economy. 

Search less. Close more.

Grow your revenue with all-in-one prospecting solutions powered by the leader in private-company data.

Still, these policies are not enough. Having a baby is often a woman’s first major experience with the health care system. Supporting her postpartum recovery proactively and comprehensively presents a massive opportunity for short-term ROI and long term prevention.

Did you know: About 50 percent of postpartum women have anemia? If undiagnosed, it can lead to large cardiovascular issues downstream, and yet there are few incentives to support prevention.

Andrea Ippolito, founder of SimpliFed

And, this could not be more true with the population on Medicaid, which represents about 50 percent of births in this country. The issue is that most women are kicked out of Medicaid 60 days postpartum (although that is changing in some places). Even if and when it extends to a year, Medicaid plans are only incentivised to treat conditions that can garner a ROI in one year, which further kicks the can down the road.

How do we change behavior? Glad you asked.

Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. There are already massive efforts underway to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum women to one year, so let’s just get that done already. This is particularly important because the CDC just announced that maternal mortality rose by 20 percent during the pandemic with affected Hispanic women skyrocketing by 44 percent, and Black women by 26 percent.

What’s next: The system needs a transformation. A true evaluation of current episodes of care and their associated payment models surrounding key moments that matter in women’s health because women are often forgotten. We need quality measures and incentives focused on prevention of issues, and then to redesign the care pathway to connect with women so they don’t have to navigate their own way in the current fractured, biased system.

Again, I commend the investors that are seeing the big picture to help women. Bravo. Let’s keep this momentum going.

Policymakers, payers and health care systems, hear these cries: Women’s health isn’t niche, it’s necessary to fuel the economy for generations to come.

Andrea Ippolito is founder of SimpliFed, and a leader in entrepreneurship and health tech. She is also the program lead of Women Entrepreneurs (WE) Cornell, and has testified before the Small Business Committee in Congress. She has previously written for Crunchbase News on women’s issues in the startup ecosystem.

Illustration: Dom Guzman


Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

Copy link