Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi, editor of Science by Women: Stories From Careers in STEM, discusses the impact of digital innovation and technology on gender equality and modern healthcare.
From the agrarian era through to the industrial era and now the electronic/information era, the subjects of human health and disease diagnosis have formed a significant part of the central concerns of humanity in its determination for worthwhile survival on Earth. What has changed over these periods however are: the type and extent to which technology is applied to problem solving; the speed/ease of acquiring, transmitting, and utilizing data for predicting health status or diagnosing diseases; and the application of multidisciplinary approaches to health care such as the simultaneous use of knowledge from nutrition, agriculture, and medicine, just to mention a few. Modernity, therefore, has given people the impetus to aspire to attain a ‘health for all’ status (i.e., physical, mental and social wellness) by the year 2063. Automation and robotics have greatly improved healthcare (SDG 3) delivery especially in enabling easy access, in remote locations, to expert medical services, rehabilitation, surgery, support services, disease diagnosis and patient monitoring.
The intersection of digital innovation and technology has had a profound impact on gender equality and modern healthcare. In the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), women have been instrumental in driving forward advancements in health and disease diagnosis through digital innovation. For instance, there has been a significant increase in the development of mobile health (mHealth) technologies, which allow for remote monitoring and management of chronic conditions. These tools have been instrumental in improving access to healthcare for women in remote and underserved areas, where they may face barriers to seeking in-person care.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have also played a crucial role in advancing medical research and disease diagnosis. Women in STEM have been at the forefront of developing AI algorithms to analyze medical images and help diagnose conditions such as breast cancer and heart disease. By using these cutting-edge technologies, healthcare providers are able to make more accurate and timely diagnoses, leading to better health outcomes for patients.
Additionally, women in STEM are also leading the way in creating innovative digital solutions to address systemic gender inequalities in healthcare. For example, they are developing telemedicine platforms that prioritize the needs of women and ensure that they have access to care that is respectful, empowering, and culturally sensitive. Women in STEM have been key contributors to the advancement of digital innovation and technology in healthcare. Their work is helping to close the gender gap in healthcare access and improve the quality of care for all patients, regardless of gender.
Modernity in Health and Disease Diagnosis: the account from STEM Women (Springer, forthcoming)–written by eminent members of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) University of Port Harcourt Branch–curates innovative perspectives and works for researchers and practitioners working in the SDG space, and is relevant to SDGs 3, 5, and 10. These female authors have demonstrated excellence in research, cutting across different areas of the sciences ranging from technology, women’s health, environmental sciences, and food security, amongst others. Leveraging STEM women’s empowerment for food security, health, environment and information access will accurately inform diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases while closing the gender gap. I believe this book will be an inspiration to other female scientists and students who are facing challenges on how to balance family, work and be able to still make a notable impact and advance in their chosen careers.
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