Correcting a historic injustice

May 28, 2024 by PATH

How women’s health innovations and a new alliance are helping to close the gender health gap.

Aminata Gaye, 29, (in pink) explains to Mossan Faye, 21, how to self-inject the contraceptive Sayana® Press at the Dominique Health Center in Pikine, Senegal. PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Nurse Aminata Gaye (in pink) teaches a patient how to self-inject the contraceptive DMPA-SC at the Dominique Health Center in Pikine, Senegal. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

“Women and girls are chronically underserved by health systems, services, products, and research,” said Kammerle Schneider, PATH’s Chief Global Health Programs Officer.

“Only 4 percent of pharmaceutical R&D spending goes towards women's health. What’s more, primary health care systems have the potential to address most of women’s health care needs but remain underfunded and disease-centered rather than person-centered. Closing the gender health gap would drastically improve health and well-being for women and girls, correcting a historic and global injustice.”

Health products designed for and by women

PATH is a long-standing champion for the health and well-being of women and girls. We partner with country governments, private industry, and civil society—including women and girls in all their diversity—to drive fit-for-purpose innovation in the products, services, and systems needed to close the gender health gap.

In the 1970s, PATH’s earliest projects focused on improving access to quality contraceptives. Since then, PATH has championed the development and commercialization of a wide range of women’s health interventions, including the Ellavi uterine balloon tamponade and heat-stable sublingual oxytocin for treating excessive bleeding after childbirth, the careHPV® Test to affordably screen women for cervical precancer, and the Caya® diaphragm and self-injectable contraceptive DMPA-SC to expand self-care options for family planning.

Once novel women’s health products are developed, PATH works with partners to ensure that women and girls have access. From HPV vaccine development and delivery to contraceptive technologies to the vaccines and diagnostics needed during pregnancy, PATH has informed global guidance, developed training tools and clinical guidelines, and provided countries with technical assistance to introduce and scale up these essential interventions.

For example, the Ellavi uterine balloon tamponade mentioned above is now available in over 20 countries, and more than 30,000 units have been sold. The Caya diaphragm is now available in over 45 countries, and more than 500,000 units have been sold. Since 2017, the number of countries with regulatory approval of DMPA-SC self-injection has grown from 19 to 59 and, in 2023 alone, nearly 1 million DMPA-SC self-injection visits took place.

Beyond products, services, and access, PATH also engages in women’s health advocacy efforts around the world, working to make health care policies and research and development more inclusive and gender responsive.

New momentum and a new alliance

In 2022, under the World Economic Forum’s Women’s Health Initiative, PATH joined a coalition of women’s health stakeholders to build the socioeconomic investment case for girls’ and women’s health. The main output of this coalition was the widely referenced Closing the Women’s Health Gap report. Developed with McKinsey Health Institute, this report provides an essential baseline against which the global community can measure progress.

The coalition’s other output was the formation of the Global Alliance for Women’s Health, a new multisector platform to help close the gender health gap through funding, research, and innovation.

PATH joined the alliance’s kickoff this month and committed to advance its goals by contributing to quarterly alliance meetings, peer learning exchange, collaboration on access to data sources, and technical working groups on key topics including maternal hypertensive disorders and postpartum hemorrhage, cervical cancer, and ischemic heart disease in women.

"As we look to the future, our commitment to advancing women’s health remains unwavering,” said Melanie Saville, MBBS, PATH’s Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Product Development. “By collaborating through the Global Alliance for Women’s Health, we can harness the collective power of innovation, research, and advocacy to create a world where every woman and girl has access to the health care they deserve. Together, we will bridge the gender health gap and ensure healthier, brighter futures for all.”