The BWHI Launch Event – Wrapped
On Wednesday, the 15th of February, we hosted our first community event to launch our Black Women’s Health Initiative. It was a privilege to have brought together so many people who were actively engaged in the topic.
The event provided us with such insightful information and has helped us not only hone our commitments to change but also acted as the first step in our journey as a company. We are still learning and growing as a young seed-stage start-up, but that doesn’t stop us from having big aspirations, and we hope to build on these year after year.
We are so thankful to everyone who attended the event. We really appreciate the time, energy and support each person gave.
It was an incredibly proud moment to be able to share the findings from our recent research looking into the role that ethnicity played in access to fertility testing and reproductive healthcare.
A roundtable discussion followed, moderated by Hertility’s CEO and founder Dr Helen O’Neill, where we heard from clinical gynaecology experts, community leaders, and patient advocates Dr Christine Ekechi, Dr Stephanie Kuku, Noni Martins and Sophia Ukor. In case you missed it, here’s a rundown of what was covered:
The changes to Black women’s reproductive healthcare over the years
All the panellists agreed that they are seeing a positive trend, with more conversations being had around women’s health in general, and increased awareness and advocacy from colleagues within the healthcare system and doctors for their patients. We heard about positive interactions with healthcare providers or seeing positive changes in healthcare delivery in the last five years.
We heard from Dr Christine Ekechi that not only is there an increased awareness of conditions that are more prevalent in Black women, but they are more cognisant of their experiences. We briefly touched on the current state of the healthcare system and what needs to be done to support healthcare professionals further to provide compassionate care. As the healthcare system becomes more stretched and there is continuous pressure to shorten GP appointments, there will be limitations on the capacity of doctors. It is no surprise that the average GP appointment in the UK lasts just 9.2 minutes, with an average of 2.5 health concerns being discussed (1), and there is not enough time to allow for a comprehensive discussion about someone’s reproductive health or pregnancy history. Women whose first language is not English and/or who have had a negative experience with a healthcare practitioner are at more of a disadvantage.
However, Dr Christine Ekechi also highlighted that the majority of UK-based doctors are willing to learn to improve the care of Black women and there is room for positive impact.
Looking to the future, we heard from both the event and post-event feedback about the importance of framing positive conversations around Black women’s reproductive health to stop the further victimisation of Black women and ethnic minority groups and to empower them so that we can help give women strength and power in healthcare situations, instead of reinforcing currently accepted narratives.
The power of knowledge and tips on advocacy
Throughout the discussion, a salient theme that shone through was the value and power of having the right information in a healthcare setting, especially when it comes to advocating for ourselves. Noni Martins emphasised the importance of going into GP appointments with symptom diaries and the knowledge about what is going on with your body, as no one knows your body better than you. Dr Christine Ekechi also highlighted that everyone deserves a right to a second opinion if they feel they do not understand or agree with the outcome of their appointment.
We briefly spoke about the prevalence of myths in reproductive health, fertility and women’s health more generally. We know from the Women’s Health Strategy that many women get their information from the NHS website (2), so as Dr Christine Ekechi said, “it’s about going to the trusted sources and addressing those gaps by filling it in with the correct information”.
We closed the event with a Q&A session, where we discussed our plans to take this beyond being data alone and to work on something which can contribute to creating lasting change within Black women’s reproductive health.
We recognise that at Hertility, we are in a unique position to be able to contribute to the work being done to provide women with access to reliable information about their reproductive health. However, we also recognise that more can be done to improve access and disseminate this information to all who need it. We are working on bedding down partnerships with organisations and networks to achieve the goals below.
Hertility’s 2023 Commitments
- The Knowledge Gap : We are looking to partner with an organisation or community centre over the course of this year to disseminate a series of free educational seminars delivered by experts in reproductive health. We will also be setting up an online learning hub, with free, short videos on menstrual health education, which community leaders will be able to access and download to ensure the dissemination of good quality, actionable information that women can use.
- The Care Gap : We believe a key component that will improve women’s healthcare outcomes is providing proactive, high-quality care that gives women insights into their reproductive health and fertility. We want to partner with an organisation to provide free access to Hertility services.
- The Data Gap : We recognise data as a powerful catalyst for change. Our next step is to continue our current work surrounding inequities in access to fertility treatment and care experienced by Black women in the UK by surveying their attitudes and experiences.
We would like to thank everyone who came for showing up, contributing their time and expertise, and really making this event a success. We cannot wait to bring you on this journey with us.
Written by Ruby Ross Relton
Project Lead of the Black Women’s Health Initiative
- Salisbury H. Helen Salisbury: The 10 minute appointment [Internet]. The BMJ. British Medical Journal Publishing Group; 2019 [cited 2023 Feb 21]. Available from: https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l2389
- Department for Health and Social Care. Results of the ‘women’s health – let’s talk about it’ survey [Internet]. GOV.UK. 2023 [cited 2023 Feb 21]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/womens-health-strategy-call-for-evidence/outcome/results-of-the-womens-health-lets-talk-about-it-survey