Women’s Health with Mareike Ostertag and Danielle Alakija

February 20, 2024 admin

Mareike Ostertag, G20 & G7HDP Ambassador, met with Danielle Alakija, Olympic Athlete and Founder and CEO of the SOLI Group, to discuss a set of practical and implementable recommendations for Women’s Health for G7 and G20 Leaders drafted throughout the past year in collaboration with many members of the Partnership.

Here are the key takeaways from the conversation:

▶️  The recommendations center on four crucial areas – increasing investment in Women’s Health, generating essential data, improving access to healthcare, and boosting women-specific R&D.

▶️ Closing the gender health gap by 2040 could boost the global economy by over USD 1 trillion annually. The economic benefits of investing in Women’s Health are clear, yet gaps persist in women-specific data and funding.

▶️  Together, we call on the G20 and G7 presidencies to tackle inequalities from research to access, ensuring advances in Women’s Health contribute to empowering women and girls worldwide.

Read the full text of the CTA here


Hi Danielle, it’s great to sit down with you today and discuss the Recommendations for Women’s Health for the G20 and G7 presidencies.

Let me take a moment to introduce the G20 and G7 Health and Development Partnership to you:

The G20 and G7 Health and Development Partnership represents over 27 organisations from across the public and private sector as well as academia. Its goal is to support the G7 and G20 countries in aligning their current and future health strategies and to promote the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

The partnership specifically takes a look through the macro-economic lens on the overall global health advancement and health systems strengthening agenda; which means sustainable financing, but also health as an investment are considered in the work and recommendations to Health and Finance Ministers. 


Lovely to chat with you today Mareike, and thank you for the introduction! 

A significant proportion of the work I do deals directly with illuminating bias in existing data, as well as highlighting gaps in data and areas where the data simply does not exist. 

While the SOLI Group deals primarily with climate inequalities – it is impossible to discuss climate change without discussing the disproportionate effects of climate change on women, and as a direct result of that – women’s health. 


Thank you, Danielle. You touch upon two incredibly important aspects. As the Global Ambassador for Women’s Health of the Partnership, I am passionate to help improve health for women and girls around the world. 

Throughout the past year, we have worked with many members of the Partnership to draft a set of practical and implementable recommendations for G7 and G20 Leaders. We focus our recommendations on 4 key areas, while being mindful not to duplicate efforts led by other key organizations in the field. 

 These areas are: 

  • Increasing investment in Women’s Health and Women’s Health research, given the demonstrated economic and social impacts.  
  • Ensuring generation of data to support evaluation of the unique health needs of women.
  • Increasing access to healthcare and health technologies for women and girls so that every woman benefits from tailored and equitable healthcare across all stages of her life.
  • Increasing women specific R&D.   


The important thing to remember when discussing Women’s issues, and in particular, Women’s Health is that womanhood is a diverse and varied experience across the globe. 

There is a need to diversify not only the data we are collecting, but also the methods by which the data is collected. We must design systems that are fit for purpose, rather than attempting to shoehorn problems into mechanisms that were not designed to solve them. 

The SOLI Group’s primary focus is advocacy for Global South populations directly affected by climate change. We employ an evidence based, human centered approach – while striving to contextualize our research in culturally appropriate frameworks. By remaining conscious of the cultural sensitivities of different regions and individual countries, it is our hope to influence policy that promotes a truly inclusive progression towards a regenerative future for our environments. 


I could not agree more. What we found when working on these recommendations is that inequalities in health do not only exist between countries, or among different socio-economic segments within the same country; they also exist across sex and gender. The positive economic effect of investment in Women’s Health is starting to be recognized, however we still see large gaps in women specific data and lack of specific funding in many countries.   

Did you know that closing the gender health gap by 2040 could boost the global economy by over USD 1 trillion annually, according to a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF)? 

The study notes that later diagnoses and lack of data mean women spend 25% longer than men in poor health. 


In fact, there are some places in which those gaps more closely resemble chasms. At times, it almost appears as though the ignorance of women’s health is a willful and deliberate oversight. Indeed, at the bare minimum, it serves as a reminder that even though there have been bounds and strides of progress in the field of women’s health – has that progress been equal across the globe? And how are those inequalities being addressed by those in the corridors of power?

It is no longer under dispute that the medical world was built for men, by men – and overwhelmingly so by men of the Global North. So the question on my end is – in 2024 – why are we still utilizing systems and methods that we recognised are biased and outdated? 


Having worked for over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, I know that significant efforts are being made to increase women specific R&D. However, it needs the entire ecosystem, from basic research to access, to make a difference.

At the end of last year, I attended an event co-organized by the IFPMA and the Global Health Initiative in Geneva on Cervical Cancer prevention and control. Cervical Cancer may be the first cancer that can be eliminated- vaccines for prevention, diagnostics and therapeutics are available. Yet, a combination of social norms, fear of stigma, and/or lack of awareness and lack of access to health facilities still present high hurdles for many girls and women around the world. 


The truth of the matter is – not only is there a global need to improve research and development into Women’s Health in general, but the existing data pertains solely to the Global North. For a myriad of factors, all the way from economic and infrastructure to systemic racism and pre-existing social bias


Regulatory agencies are one of the key players along the path of increasing women specific R&D. In preparation for the H20 Summit in Geneva in 2023, I touched base with the European Regulatory Agency, EMA. I was aware of ongoing activities, but very impressed by just how many different aspects the regulatory agencies – not just in the EU – are setting out to cover. Active projects range from tailored women specific research, monitoring and pharmacovigilance to guideline development for inclusion of pregnant and breastfeeding women to setting up platforms and clusters for knowledge sharing and capacity building amongst regulatory agencies.

All of these activities are clear steps in the right direction – and they certainly offer hope! Women must be included in every step of the process in order to ensure that the solutions that emerge from these activities are designed specifically for those they intend to protect. 

I can not tell you how many times I have watched a piece of entertainment, or read an article where it is abundantly clear that not only were no women consulted – no women were involved at any stage of the process. While there are humorous examples of this – this phenomenon (practice?) extends beyond Hollywood and academia into policy and decision making at the highest level. 

However, there are a number of ways to combat this – at all levels. From promoting and strengthening women’s education systems, particularing in STEM fields, to upgrading existing research infrastructures within the Global South and increasing public funding for women specific issues. We must empower people to tell their own stories – and to show where help is needed most, rather than making assumptions as to where aid is required. 

You are so right! 

One sentence that specifically resonated with me is from the EMA’s call to action of last year’s  H20 Summit. It beautifully sums up what we should strive for, given that more than 60 years after thalidomide, a medicine that caused severe birth defects, out of fear, the population that has benefited the least from advances in medicines regulation is that of pregnant and breastfeeding individuals.women. 

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should be protected, not from research, but through research.


Thank you Mareike! It is so crucial to remember that knowledge does more than inform, it protects. By providing our policy makers and decision makers with not only accurate but geologically comprehensive data alongside such recommendations – we give them the opportunity to craft policies that actively work to undo systemic inequalities rather than skirt around – or worse, perpetuate them. 

Danielle and Mareike: 

Together, we call on the G20 and G7 presidencies to tackle inequalities along the path from research to access to ensure advances in Women’s Health contribute to the ability of  women and girls around the World, irrespective of their geographic origins,  for all to live up to their full potential.

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