Women Social Entrepreneurs Can Fix the Diseased Healthcare System


As women, we deal with a plenitude of health issues that disrupt our lives. When we seek to enlist medical help for our problems, we enter a healthcare system that itself is diseased.

Seeking treatment becomes an ordeal to find accurate diagnoses and skillful care providers. We are not accessing the tools we need to experience glowing health, especially those related to conditions triggered or worsened by hormones.

A Metaphor for Fixing the Healthcare System

Imagine that an organism has been injured or developed an illness. Imagine the white blood cells careening to the site of the disturbance to begin the process of protecting and healing.

Whatever the illness or injury, a creature’s healing always begins from within. By the time a Band-Aid can be placed on a bleeding cut, the body’s intelligence has already mobilized nature’s most powerful defensive system.

Now, consider that we have recognized a threat to our collective body as women.

That threat is the diseased healthcare system—a system that takes decades to properly diagnose common women’s health conditions because there is so little reliable research in the field. The system is one through which women are told that their pain isn’t real and supplants them with antidepressants, prescribed without regard to their long-term side effects.  This system over prescribes risky drugs and surgeries, so often failing to fairly test the safety and efficacy of medication. The healthcare system is sick, and we, women, must be the immune response. It is long overdue.

The Imperative for Women to Spearhead Innovation in Healthcare

Healthcare innovator Lisa Suennen points out that 96% of the people running the pharmaceutical, healthcare and most health enterprise systems are male and only 30% of physicians are female. A paucity of women leads to a poverty in women-centered health measures.

These statistics result in what Suennen calls the “enterprise value-dampening effects of gender bias”—in other words—a great loss of financial revenue in healthcare.  “Virtually every river you can navigate into the waters of healthcare senior leadership courses with testosterone,” laments Suennen.

Women consume, consider, cross-reference and share their healthcare related information.

As women, our personal medical data emerges organically and experientially. We know our symptoms intimately, and with a degree of accuracy that can be of great value to advances in women’s healthcare.

The stories of our bodies are rich with evidence—evidence of great value to science, if science were only more receptive to our specific needs; if science’s gaze were less testosterone driven.

Connecting to Conquer: The Power of Social Media

The connectivity conduits of social media can allow us to seed new ideas strategically and construct a targeted approach to fixing what’s broken–not by applying pressure from the outside (a Band-Aid approach)–but by creating integrated solutions that work within the current system to break through it.

This is not about dismantling our medical institutions.

This is about applying precise, internal pressure to address systematic problems.

The current healthcare system is a threat because its methods are a danger to our prosperity and well-being. Its umbrella approach to diagnosis and treatment of women’s health issues is often ineffectual and expensive.

Our response to the dangerous practices of the healthcare system must be like the immune response—layered.

We first must recognize the harmful entity and respond. Initially, our response is general–an awareness. Next, we must actively maintain a motivation to change.

Through social media networking, we can peel through the system in layers and our actions become increasingly specific.We establish community immunity.

Once activated, our response is–to use another favorite metaphor of the social media world–viral.

Social Entrepreneurs and Women’s Health

The goal is to direct and maintain a movement to improve the efficacy, safety and accountability of the medical establishment’s approach to women’s health–but how?

Enter: the social entrepreneur.

The role of a social entrepreneur is to establish and manage positive social change. Social innovation is at the root of the historical shift in information flow we are currently navigating.

While the word “entrepreneur” connotes a certain level of business acumen, the actual techniques of the social entrepreneur transcend the building of a profitable enterprise. Their strength is in the engineering of connectivity. By guiding the evolution of a networked, collaborative cohort of individuals, the social entrepreneur’s essential role is one of large-scale enrollment.

The creative problem-solving capacity of a networked group has a certain practical elegance. As a mechanism for change, the social network has an embedded collective intelligence. It is inherently consensus-building.

Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, a global network of social entrepreneurs, explained that the communal aspect requires certain leadership techniques. “Every social entrepreneur is a mass recruiter and facilitator of local change-makers,” said Drayton.

Sally Osberg, CEO of the Skoll Foundation, a social entrepreneurship think-tank, explained that “social entrepreneurs excel at togetherness. I’ve come to see how the ‘social’ that characterizes their purpose also characterizes their way of working. In other words, social entrepreneurs don’t just pursue a social end, they pursue that end in a fundamentally communal way.”

In her post about manufacturing consent with social media, Dr. Chandler Marrs highlighted that social media and our ability to “self-filter” our information represents “a powerful shift in information management, one that big money, no matter how it has tried, cannot yet contain or control.” This vision reflects a novel approach to societal challenges.

The social momentum of this information shift also has extensive implications for invoking systematic changes in the current medical paradigm of women’s health. It involves bypassing the often corruptive influences of mainstream media and money and working directly at the point of need – with women themselves- and addressing the unacceptable lack of data in women’s healthcare.

The value of a socially networked group of women armed with accurate health information is immense. This vision of a collective entity echoes Bill Drayton’s idea that the rise of social entrepreneurship “represents a radical departure from a world in which, for millenniums, tiny minorities of elites have been telling most everyone else what to do.”

Putting Immunity to Work

Returning to the metaphor of immunity, we see how the process of recognizing and responding through social entrepreneurship can begin to alleviate the problems that plague status-quo approaches to all manner of women’s health issues.

The goal of course, is that after some time, we would move from active to passive immunity. We would develop proverbial antibodies against the unreliable data provided via corporate sponsored and contradictory studies. We would reestablish and redistribute a demand for authentic data.

Every woman can be an agent of the large scale changes. Each woman can self-enroll in the resistance against the diseased healthcare system by becoming an expert in her own health and by sharing her story and her knowledge with other women.

The key to successful innovation in women’s healthcare is women.

Get involved by sharing your experience, connecting with other women and becoming part of a community based on actively seeking answers.

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Carlie Partridge

Carlie is a freelance writer living in Northern Nevada.

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