Disrupting Female Representation in Health … and Tech

When NASA sent the first woman to space, they weren’t sure if 100 tampons would be enough for the week-long mission aboard the Challenger shuttle. In case you’re wondering, yes, 100 tampons would be more than enough. Women’s bodies as it turns out, are the last terra incognita. What’s even crazier, is that this is true even in the health field. Women are consistently underrepresented in clinical trials — and when women do participate, female-specific differentiators are often not studied or analyzed in the data. 

This opens the larger discussion around female-specific considerations in healthcare generally. Research often has very little understanding of female responses to medications and treatments because to analyze womens health is often complicated and even the biggest companies don’t bother trying. This means most pharmaceuticals have been made without any consideration of the realities of the differences between men and women such as hormones, menstruation, and fertility. My Normative is working to change that. 

Founded by health and wellness professional Danika Kelly and Epidemiologist, Renee Kokts-Porietis, My Normative is a female-focused health platform driving innovation in health sciences through clinically validated data collection, data management, and analytical processes. My Normative will help researchers better understand the scientific connections between the unique physiological realities of female persons as they interact with both female specific and “equal opportunity” health conditions.  

Female-focused research and female researchers are underfunded, but with My Normative, researchers can access a sample size of 1,000 to 2,000 people for the cost of a 50-person sample size with traditional trials. Larger sample sizes are more conclusive, and can save time and money- and perhaps even lives – as diagnoses, treatment and innovation can be developed much faster. This will allow not only for significantly increased health outcomes for female persons, but it will also relieve burden on the healthcare system. 

The ‘My’ in My Normative represents each female person’s unique health journey. The co-founders have created a model where not only do they gather data that can be used to inform research, they provide immediate analysis of the data to the person inputting it. Users of the platform log the way they’re feeling each day including energy levels, whether they feel rested, or are experiencing any physical pain or discomfort, and the application provides insight into what is going on in their body. Out of this, the participant should have a greater understanding of ‘their normative.’ A user might log that they are feeling more tired than usual, and the application will let them know that It’s probably because their progesterone levels are elevated at this point of their cycle because they have just finished ovulating. Being able to provide those personalized insights as people engaged with the clinical trial process was a fundamental piece of building My Normative. “If you want to reach users and keep them actively engaged, you need to provide them with value,” said Kelly. 

Users can track their hormonal health using the My Normative App to discover how their hormones impact their exercise performance, cycle symptoms, sleep quality, mood, and more. It even integrates with Apple’s Health app to collect biometric and ambient movement information while automatically pairing with the user’s other tech so you get results faster.

You also need to keep private information safe. My Normative user data is kept secure with the assistance of the platform’s “DEBORAH” function, which decouples data from all personally identifiable information. Account information is stored only on the user’s phone and their Apple account, with no way for My Normative to access it.

My Normative has taken off since its founding three years ago and has plans to expand further into the prairies, across Canada, and beyond. Granting has been key to their growth alongside early stage fundraising. My Normative has also received funding through Alberta InnovatesMitacs and other provincial and federal funders. This year it was announced that My Normative will be involved in the Canadian Space Agency’s Health Beyond initiative to support gender-inclusive health care for astronauts in space exploration.  

For more information, visit mynormative.ca.

Photo courtesy My Normative.

This article originally appeared on calgary.tech on April 28, 2023.