Thursday, Oct 27, 2022
Supporting Women’s Health is Good for Business
Dr. Jenny CarrilloChief Commercial Officer and General Manager, Ovia Health
Creating a workplace where mothers can thrive changes whole companies — studies show that organizations with better gender equity are more successful. However, when women and families don’t get the healthcare and support they need, businesses suffer, too — through lower productivity and preventable healthcare costs as well as the lost knowledge and added expense of training new workers when women move on to jobs with better benefits.
Overlooking women’s health is an epidemic
Women’s health has been overlooked for years with serious repercussions.
Consider this: the U.S. has the worst maternity outcomes of any developed nation. As of 2020, our maternal mortality rate was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births and rising, even as maternal mortality is declining in other developed countries. According to a recent report from the CDC, 80% of our pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. Data has clearly shown this crisis is most urgent for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) mothers. Black women are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.
We’re also failing to provide the support women need to thrive as they become mothers. As many as one in five women experience perinatal depression, and many go undiagnosed and untreated.
The problem doesn’t start or end with pregnancy. Across the board, women are often dismissed when they need health support — even at the doctor’s office. In a recent survey by Ovia, nearly 85% of our members said they’d experienced medical gaslighting; they were told by healthcare providers that their symptoms were imagined or exaggerated. 63% of respondents said the experience delayed their ability to get an accurate diagnosis and necessary treatment.
Similarly, women’s health needs around menopause are often downplayed or ignored. In a 2021 survey of more than 5,000 women around the age of menopause, 3 of 5 struggled with difficult symptoms while working, and 1 of 3 actively hid their symptoms from colleagues and managers. In another survey, half of women said they were afraid they’d be stigmatized if people knew they were going through menopause at all.
The high cost of ignoring women’s health
These trends are concerning, with real implications on our communities. The cost of neglecting women’s health issues adds up — for employers, payers, and women themselves. Let’s look at a few of the numbers.
In the U.S., payers and families spend $75.8 billion each year on maternal and postpartum health. That’s 1 of every 5 healthcare dollars employers spent! Much of this goes toward health crises we could reduce or avoid with better care, including:
While there’s less research on the costs of menopause, studies estimate that menopause-related productivity losses for businesses are as high as $150 billion per year. This is the case, even though menopause symptoms are treatable.
Women’s health and wellness impact retention
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. workforce has lost more than 5.4 million women, putting us at a 33-year low for women’s labor force participation. And the trend continues — women are still leaving their jobs at a higher rate than men. Each time a woman leaves, an employer loses skills and accumulated knowledge, and bears the expense of finding and training a replacement. The costs add up.
So why are women leaving the workforce? During the pandemic, many working mothers faced two nearly impossible demands: figure out childcare without schools or daycare and perform at a job without family-friendly benefits. Many simply couldn’t balance the two.
The pandemic was unprecedented, but the truth is that women have always paid a “motherhood tax” at the office. Most of the time, work is simply not set up to work for mothers. Some key drivers are:
- Women either don’t have paid maternity leave, or don’t have enough.
- Lacking support through the family-building process by their Employers.
- Childcare costs are high, and there’s little help to cover this critical care.
- Employers fall short when it comes to return-to-work planning and support for new parents balancing work and family.
While pregnancy and the early parenting years can be one of the most challenging times for women at work, the lack of support is consistent across life changes and health challenges. Let’s consider menopause again. There’s so little support that nearly 20 percent of women in menopause have considered leaving a job due to symptoms.
Making women’s health and wellness a priority at work
Supporting the health and wellbeing of women and families is critical and must be addressed. Women and communities are bearing the burden and suffering unnecessarily. When employers and payers support women, they save on healthcare costs, improve health outcomes, and retain working mothers.
To learn more about how payers and employers can support women’s health and working mothers with family-friendly benefits and a culture shift, join Ovia’s Chief Commercial Officer and General Manager, Dr. Jenny Carrillo, for Ovia’s session on the Women at HLTH Impact Stage at 2:50 pm ET on Monday, November 14th.
Ovia Health, a Labcorp subsidiary, has served more than 17 million family and parenthood journeys since 2012 and is on a mission to make a happy, healthy family possible for everyone. Ovia Health is the only family health solution clinically proven to effectively identify and intervene with high-risk conditions. The company's 50+ clinical programs, including predictive coaching and personalized care plans, help prevent unnecessary health care costs, improve health outcomes, and foster a family-friendly workplace that increases retention and return to work. For more information visit www.oviahealth.com.