Healthcare 4.0 and everything that revolves around technological development applied to the pharmaceutical sector and the evolution of social-health services is an area in which the synergy of strategic collaborations between Italy and Japan is becoming increasingly attractive with a view to ‘circular health’ and with a particular eye to women’s health.
We are just a few days away from the ceremony in Hiroshima that will start the handover of the G7 Presidency from Japan to Italy. These two nations share two primates: they are the world’s oldest and most indebted countries. But they are also countries in which gender equality is struggling to make inroads, and it is Women who bear the brunt in terms of opportunities for social, professional and political participation.
W7, the Women’s Civil Society Forum: what it is and What its Goals Are
W7, the Women’s Forum of Civil Society, is crucial. The Women 7 (W7) is an official civic engagement group of the G7 Summit established in 2018 in Canada. Civil society organisations come together to promote proposals on gender equality and women’s rights to governments as part of the Group 7 (G7) process. Based on the feminist principles of intersectionality and inclusiveness, the W7 brings together women’s rights organisations and groups not only from G7 countries but also from around the world committed to women’s and girls’ rights. Its goal is to ensure that G7 leaders make concrete political and financial commitments that lead to tangible, lasting, transformative impacts on the lives of women and girls everywhere. The W7 venue rotates annually with the G7 Presidencies. Between 2023 and 2024, the W7 chairmanship will shift from Japan to Italy.
And it was one of Italy’s top activists, Martina Rogato, Steering Committee W7 Italy, who, together with the Japanese delegation, on Monday delivered and presented the recommendations to Japanese Prime Minister Kishida so that he will be the spokesperson during the next G7 summit in Hiroshima, the one where the baton for the next G7 will be passed to Italy.
“The time has come to adopt an intersectional gender logic to policies and solutions that affect every sphere, from the fight against climate change to peace and security, and to ensure that every talented woman can help make a difference.” These are the words of Rogato, who, together with other civil society representatives, will coordinate the work open to delegations from different countries and a hundred experts who will be selected on merit.
Scrolling through the priorities of the communiqué, there is an area in which the synergy of actions and strategic collaborations between Italy and Japan is becoming more and more enjoyable. It concerns precisely the so-called Health 4.0, the technological development applied to the pharmaceutical sector, and the evolution of the socio-health services proposal at the centre of Mission 6 of the PNRR. An industry that encompasses essential issues from the environment, being responsible for 31% of energy consumption, to investments linked to growth rates in artificial intelligence applications, as much as 68% in 2022. In short, a ‘circular health’ perspective that sees sustainability factors as central, well aware that any sustainability strategy starts with the full inclusion of women.
Gender equality and the birth rate problem
In November 2022, the world population will surpass 8 billion people. For many of us, this is a milestone that the human family should celebrate, a sign that people are living longer and healthier lives and have more rights and choices than ever before.
And more thought should be given to the relationship between reproductive autonomy and healthier lives is an undeniable truth. When women have choices about their bodies and lives, they and their families and societies prosper too.
Yet this has not been the message heard by much of the world. On the contrary, many headlines speak of a world teetering towards overpopulation or that entire countries and regions are ageing towards obsolescence. Somehow, when human numbers are counted, the rights and potential of individuals are too easily overlooked. Over and over again, birth rates are identified as a problem, with little recognition of people giving birth.
This should have changed when the UN’s Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) 30 years ago recognised that the birth rate problem is linked to the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment by ensuring women’s ability to manage their fertility. But, unfortunately, little has been seen in actions that should be at the core of population and development programmes.
This view has been formulated primarily because women’s movements have seen the violations that can occur when family planning is used as a tool for ‘population control’ and what empowerment and autonomous family planning can help ensure for individuals. As done in many Northern European countries and Spain and Portugal.
Taking care of women’s health could create opportunities for life science organisations, providers, payers, academics and investors throughout the data value chain. The starting point is constructing a widely recognised definition of women’s health that encompasses all relevant conditions – not just those related to reproductive health – and emphasises the biological relevance of sex to health outcomes.
Italian health and life sciences incumbents could also take the lead in collaborating with companies with unanalysed sex-disaggregated data.
The international collaborations and also this confrontation between realities with similar social issues make the work of the W7 essential to press these issues to Governments to effectively improve the generation and use of data in the delivery of care and up to the training of physicians on gender-specific biology and implicit biases that we know today, with an emphasis on reducing the gap between the prevalence of the condition and the volume of diagnoses, could help improve health outcomes for women and critical sources of data generation.
Investors, entrepreneurs and life science incumbents each have a role in investing in this white space. Rethink traditional epidemiological metrics.
Revising and expanding these metrics could be a joint effort between governments, academics, clinicians and public health experts. The gaps are many, and women in different demographics are affected to varying degrees. Still, a new effort to raise the bar on women’s health data could unlock the next generation of innovations in life sciences and care delivery to women globally. Moreover, taking care of women means taking care of communities. Because the future of women’s health innovation is only as strong as the data value chain that supports it, and it is time to fill these gaps.
Anna Maria Tartaglia, Head of Delegation W20 and Steering Committee W7 Italy, launches a wish “In the diversity of our practices and experiences, we have managed, after six months of work, to produce a set of recommendations that see us united in the call for a gender and intersectional perspective also concerning the topic of health and medicine. Sectors where, moreover, a greater presence of women in top positions (they are currently only 18% despite representing 68% of employees), could make a real difference.” Because the future of innovation in women’s health is only as strong as the data value chain that supports it, and it is time to close these gaps.
There is no doubt that the new digital era offers endless opportunities to improve the speed and accuracy with which we can detect and respond to even potential epidemics and monitor ongoing public health challenges, especially in support of women and youth. The creation of international portals during COVID-19 was an excellent demonstration of the value of digital health in harmonising and standardising processes across countries. Prioritising technological advances that put people at the centre, such as digitising primary care delivery, connected diagnostics and telemedicine powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development expressly recognises that sexual and reproductive health and gender equality are essential to unlocking a more prosperous and sustainable future, so W7 ITALY is already off to a solid start in the work that will allow us to look well beyond the tragic experience of Covid, also and above all thanks to the farsighted and tireless commitment of Women who have always done a commendable job in healthcare as professionals.
Photo caption: Delivery of the Communiqué to Premier Kishida and Equal Opportunities Minister Ogura together with the Delegates of the W7Japan Presidency