In order to successfully implement our project in the real world, we decided to consider current issues in society that may create barriers to the implementation of our project. To do this, we analyzed the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and designed our project to address challenges relevant to endometriosis and women’s reproductive healthcare.
Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being
Governments and private enterprises disproportionately distribute resources, prioritizing certain diseases while undervaluing other prevalent diseases. Endometriosis is one such overlooked disease, affecting at least 10% of women worldwide (As-Sanie et al., 2019). This disease affects not only women's physical well-being but also mental health as approximately 86.5% of patients with endometriosis have depressive symptoms (Sepulcri & do-Amaral, 2009). The combination of symptoms with the astounding 11 year diagnostic delay (Agarwal et al., 2010) negatively impact patients’ daily activities such as work, school, intimate relationships, and social lives, for a significant portion of their lives.
Understanding how the diagnostic delay exacerbates the impact of endometriosis inspired our team to implement our project not just at gynecological clinics but also at pediatric primary care providers, who often lack training on the clinical presentation of endometriosis (Moen, 2017). We aim to make our diagnostics tools available to pediatricians as well as provide pediatricians with information on how to detect the early signs of endometriosis in adolescents. Additionally, we created brochures targeting pre-teens and teenagers to educate them on normative versus atypical period symptoms.
Goal #4 Quality Education and Goal #5: Gender Equality
Many women experience microaggressions and bias in clinical settings as women’s pain is minimized and considered “over-reactions” (Freeman & Stewart, 2018, Young 2019). These experiences strain the patient-provider relationship as physicians view women as incapable of giving knowledge about their bodies and women, in turn, feel misunderstood and unheard (Freeman & Stewart, 2018). This is particularly relevant to endometriosis patients as the most common symptom is moderate to severe pelvic pain, which may be marginalized by physicians who have minimal training in female reproductive healthcare (DiVasta, 2018, Young 2019).
Marginalizing patients with endometriosis and overlooking their symptoms has been a big issue for patients that suffer from this disease (Grogan et al., 2018, Young 2019). Successful implementation of our diagnostic tools relies on physicians knowing when to use them and women advocating for a test to be done even when physicians minimize their symptoms. Our project aims to empower women to spark conversations with their physicians about their pain and advocate for themselves. To accomplish this, women must be educated on the sign and symptoms of endometriosis and be confident in their knowledge of their own menstrual health. Additionally, physicians must be educated on how to provide empathetic and quality care to women who experience pelvic pain. We launched an outreach program designed to target women of all ages and physicians who may be exposed to endometriosis patients. We distributed these infographics and brochures to local clinics and created an educational website with the hopes of inspiring women to self-advocate.
Goal #10: Reduce Inequalities
Endometriosis affects at least Comment start 200 million people worldwide (Eskenazi & Warner, 1997) Comment end demonstrating that this is a global issue. However, access to healthcare, specifically women’s healthcare, and the quality of care varies significantly across countries due to differences in available resources and diverse cultures surrounding women’s reproductive health.
By utilizing E.coli for the production of antibodies in our diagnostic panel, we considerably reduced the cost of our test making it thousands of dollars cheaper than the cost of invasive laparoscopic surgery for diagnosis (Fuldeore et al., 2011). Our test can also be done with minimal equipment and training by healthcare providers or technicians. Between the ease of use and reduced cost, we aim to be able to implement our project in all clinical settings, despite the clinic’s access to medical resources or the financial status of the patient. However, it is also important to collaborate with the communities we plan on implementing our project in to discuss how we can adapt our product and educational materials to meet the unique needs of the individual community.
Goal #12: Responsible Consumption and Production
While tampons and pads remain the most popular menstrual hygiene products in developed countries, their single-use nature and plastic non decomposable composition leads to build up of these products in landfills and increases microplastics in the ocean (Peberdy et al., 2019). Menstrual cups are environmentally friendly alternative to tampons and pads as a single cup can be reused for up to 10 years. However, only a small percentage of women use menstrual cups due to lack of education on menstrual cups and general public familiarity with them (Van Eijk et al., 2019).
When designing our menstrual blood sample collection kit, our team decided to utilize menstrual cups due to their sustainability. However, knowing that most women prefer single-use disposable menstrual hygiene products, we focused our outreach on promoting the benefits of menstrual cups and how to properly use them in order to increase women’s comfort and confidence with menstrual cups.