Preliminary Policy Stakeholder Engagement for Emergent FemTech and Women’s Digital Health

PI: Lindsay Balfour; Co-Is: Grace Carter, Maxine Whelan, Nikki Holliday, Louise Moody 

This project, funded by Research England’s Policy Support Fund in Spring 2022, included two rounds of workshops with FemTech (feminine technologies) stakeholders including regulatory agencies, users, founders and CEOs, consultants, and other industry professionals. The aim of these activities was to explore how different stakeholders perceive FemTech and the regulations, laws, and policies underpinning it and to begin to influence policy makers and regulators at a national level. Our stakeholders included major bodies such as the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA), and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).  Using the Policy Support fund, we conducted a preliminary stakeholder engagement analysis which allowed us to narrow our policy impact objectives and help determine whether policy recommendations should aim to reform industry standards, government intervention and oversight, or healthcare quality standards and protocol (or any combination of the above). It provided us with a clear and defined view of the existing policy landscape around FemTech and, most importantly, initiated the involvement of policy makers as co-creators. Led by PI Balfour, this was an interdisciplinary, international, and cross-institute project. It brought expertise in postdigital cultures, gender studies, psychology and intelligent healthcare into conversation with policy makers and industry networks such as FemTech Collective and Women of Wearables, and into alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals regarding Women and Girls, and in particular policy targets focusing on global sexual and reproductive health. 

While this project served as pump-prime finding for a much larger ESRC New Investigator Grant (PI Balfour, currently under review at panel stage), the potential impacts of the preliminary policy workshops alone were substantial, including but not limited to: enhancement of policies governing women’s health and wellbeing through digital intervention; improvements around social welfare, equality, and increased awareness of gendered and domestic violence as a critical health issue; knowledge exchange across academia and into the public policy and social service sectors; equitable economic impacts across a range of emerging FemTech markets “primed for innovation” and investment (FemTechAnalytics, 2021); shaping of the broader scope of policy governing data privacy and surveillance; and influence over market trends to affect the public consumption of FemTech that is accessible, informed, and useful to the women who need it most. In addition, our activities helped to ensure the resulting ESRC funding application aligned to UKRI’s vision for outstanding research and innovation that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enrich lives locally, nationally and internationally by directly involving a wider pool of people, organisations and approaches in research. In particular, our project aligned with the need for researchers in universities to engage with the users of research, and policy makers in particular, throughout the research lifecycle, from conception to outcomes. 




Spring 2022


Research England’s Policy Support Fund

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