Gunjan holds a degree in Computer Engineering with an MBA from IIT Bombay. She is a Life Sciences and Healthcare IT expert with specialization in Pharma R&D IT, Clinical Research Outsourcing and Healthcare IT. She has worked in world’s largest IT consulting and software product companies such as PwC, IBM, Oracle for over 15 years.
What is the challenge you/your organisation is working on?
In India, where 20% of the population suffers from chronic illness (including cancer), there is a problem of poor health insights due to limited health records. As a result, patients face mis-treatment, cost escalations and missed dosages. Doctors could be the real change agents to solve this, but overburdened doctors really don’t have the time to educate patents about preventive healthcare.
At Vytal, we aim to empower every patient in every developing country through greater access to personal data, health information, and communications tools, in order to facilitate self-care, shared decision making, and clinical outcomes.
We believe that women, who are the custodians of family health, will bring about this change.
How does this issue affect women?
Women lack a voice when it comes to decisions about their own bodies, healthcare expenses and their future. Women – irrespective of their level of education - often ignore their own health due to a lack of awareness, other priorities, and access to health.
The world still focuses very much on maternal health which definitely reflects critical needs, but today’s predominant view of women as reproductive beings needs to change. Women’s non-reproductive health is an important public health issue especially among developing countries, because neglecting women’s health in other stages of life can significantly increase a nation’s disease burden.
My organization, Vytal Healthtech, works not just in the space of women’s reproductive health, but also that of chronic illnesses that take much longer to diagnose in women (because women’s pain is less likely to be taken as seriously as men’s).
Our simple mobile app helps women track not just their kids’ vaccination due dates or aging parents’ chronic illnesses, but also, and most importantly, their own routine health examinations, during their pregnancies and beyond. Patient awareness and education delivered through our digital tools and workshops give them the power to choose.
We are also building digital communities of patients with Multiple Sclerosis – a disease which is more likely to impact women but is greatly neglected in our part of the world. Our technology captures and analyses real-world data to guide the decisions of stakeholders across the entire healthcare value chain.
Why is women’s leadership important for improving women’s access to health?
Promoting gender equity in healthcare leadership is an important part of the global agenda for healthy lives and wellbeing. Studies suggest that increasing women's leadership within global health is an opportunity to further health system resilience and system responsiveness.
Today, chronic diseases and NCDs – such as cardiovascular disorders, stroke, cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease and mental health disorders – are rapidly becoming the leading causes of death and disability among women globally. In spite of this widely published data, not many concrete steps have been taken to change our response and policies to improve “women’s access to health”. When women are brought into decision-making roles, they design health initiatives that directly ensure improved access and better outcomes.
Without this crucial step, all our efforts to attain the gender- and health-related SDGs will only be half-met.
How can women amplify their impact on this issue, and what’s necessary to help them combine their efforts?
Women's leadership positively impacts health initiatives from their design, to their implementation and outcomes. To amplify this impact,
- It is crucial to increase the visibility of women's leadership in global health, which can be achieved through organizing “thought leadership events” like this one.
- We need more initiatives to build capacity, including training and dedicated funds for technology and research. Training and mentorship should be gender responsive, respecting gender-specific challenges.
- We should aim to create opportunities for women to connect with other women in health communities – at local and global levels. These opportunities can bring women together to address common issues across regions, encourage cross-learning and peer-to-peer support.
How important is collaboration? What role does an initiative like the Daring Circle play in that shared work?
Women might be separated by countries and cultures, but they are united by issues related to health inequalities. Only a woman can understand that there is more to a woman than just being a reproductive being. The evidence of bias seems to disappear when women collaborate with other women. A platform like the Daring Circles enables women to connect with others in the global community and gives everyone an opportunity to learn from innovative insights and each other’s experiences. Together we win.
This series of stories highlights women leaders and entrepreneurs who are driving positive impact on our most pressing global issues and demonstrating women’s unique contribution to inclusive solutions. It draws on the community of the Daring Circles – workgroups committed to positive impact in areas where women are most affected and where women are demonstrating outsize leadership. Share your stories with the hashtag #Women4Health, and submit your own stories to the Women’s Forum editorial team by emailing Sophie Lambin (email@example.com).