Image: Clue

Clue, a femtech and reproductive health platform, has recently announced a new initiative in collaboration with top global universities, including the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Exeter, along with the Menarche Menstruation Menopause and Mental Health (4M) consortium. The initiative aims to use anonymized health data from Clue users to close the diagnosis gap for female health conditions.

This project focuses on utilizing data input by Clue app users into the ‘My Health Record’ feature, which covers 21 different health conditions. The data will be crucial for research projects scheduled for 2024. The move comes in response to significant disparities in health diagnosis between women and men. Research shows that 72% of women experience longer wait times than men for the same health conditions. Conditions like Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) have high percentages of undiagnosed cases, with women often waiting several years for a diagnosis.

Audrey Tsang, CEO of Clue, comments on the initiative’s potential: “Together with our global user community, we are creating what will be the world’s largest dataset that can match the menstrual and wider health symptom patterns of people with confirmed diagnoses with those who have the same patterns, but who don’t yet have a diagnosis. By working with top researchers from around the world to leverage this data, we believe we will be able to make significant progress to accelerate and improve diagnostics and support for people with these conditions.”

Gemma Sharp, Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the University of Exeter and Founder and Director of the 4M consortium, discusses the motivation and impact of the partnership: “I started the global 4M research consortium because I was astounded by the social stigma, lack of understanding, and paucity of research in the field of women’s menstrual health, which is a big contributor to gender inequality. Half the world menstruates, and related health issues can have a major impact on quality of life, health, and wellbeing. Now, this new partnership between our global research consortium and Clue is a really exciting opportunity to conduct research at the intersection of two crucial areas: menstrual and mental health. This collaboration will allow us to gather and analyze data on a massive scale, enabling us to generate answers which will improve understanding of women’s health, and ultimately improve lives.”

Prof. Kim Harley, Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, highlights the importance of understanding perimenopause symptoms: “The impacts of perimenopause symptoms, including loss of sleep, hot flashes, mood, and mental health changes, are coming to the fore as a major factor in economic and health equality. However, there is still a lot we don’t know about the very earliest stages of perimenopause, the frequency and severity of symptoms, and individual factors that increase symptoms. This is tied to the lack of real-time data on large populations of people experiencing this highly individual and often gradual process. Working with Clue and its new ‘perimenopause mode’ provides the opportunity to study and understand the perimenopausal process. Clue’s data is unique in that it covers poorly understood periods of people’s reproductive lives, including the transition from fertility to menopause, early onset menopause, and the experiences of people at the beginning stages of this process before they would otherwise be clinically identified. Many people experience symptoms without understanding them as part of the perimenopause process, and few people successfully receive clinical support for their symptoms. We hope that our research with Clue will help individual users understand more about this universal life stage.”

Tsang further addresses the existing research gap in female health: “What is politely called ‘the research gap’ is more of a research ‘canyon’ when it comes to female health, with the direct consequence that millions of women and people with cycles are living with symptoms that could benefit from medical support, but too often it takes far too long for them to access that support and treatment. We believe through this initiative we’ll be able to uncover insights and patterns that can be used to develop personalized insights to help people engage with their healthcare providers and accelerate the diagnosis process. We know data is power and agency when it comes to health, and that it can play a critical role in making what is otherwise invisible, both visible and quantifiable. We’re excited to take the scale of Clue data and put it to work to specifically address the diagnosis gaps that cause so much frustration, confusion, and pain. Having a diagnosis can mean validation, relief, and most importantly, the opportunity to get the help and treatment one needs.”

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