A women’s well-being app builds on Saudi Arabia’s health-tech success

Saudi women take part in a cycling race to mark World Obesity Day celebration in Riyadh's Princess Noura University. (AFP/File Photo)
Saudi women take part in a cycling race to mark World Obesity Day celebration in Riyadh's Princess Nourah University. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 23 October 2021

A women’s well-being app builds on Saudi Arabia’s health-tech success

Saudi women take part in a cycling race to mark World Obesity Day celebration in Riyadh's Princess Nourah University. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Technology geared toward women’s health, or femtech, is a rapidly emerging field in the Kingdom
  • Beyond fitness tracking, IMC Women’s Health app monitors users’ body metrics, fertility and wellness 

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s growing health tech sector will soon get a new smartphone application dedicated to monitoring women’s well-being.

The IMC women’s health app, due to launch on Nov. 1, will — according to its creators — track users’ body metrics, offering them more control over their health and promoting overall well-being.

More than just a dieting and fitness tracker, the new app also gives information on gynecology services, polycystic ovary syndrome, fertility, fatigue and hormones. It includes a calendar and calculator for menstrual cycles, ovulation and fertility tracking, as well as for pregnancy and wellness management.

“We focus a lot on wellness and well-being,” Farhaa Abdelhaq, who is in charge of the app’s design and analysis, told Arab News. “It connects to our vision of healing the mind, body and soul by taking a holistic approach. Biologically, we know that women have longer life expectancies, but that longevity does not equate to better quality of health.”

Different features allow women to predict their fertility, record and track their symptoms, and monitor contraception, blood pressure, blood sugar and medication. As Abdelhaq explained, such metrics require a service tailored specially for women to provide them with more control over the management of their health.




A preview of the IMC Women’s Health App. (Supplied)

“It’s really about dedicating a special app for their specific needs, for diseases that affect them, and to give them more opportunity and information, without visiting the doctor all the time,” she said.

“It’s about enabling and empowering patients to have information at their fingertips, which they can receive from a more (reliable) source rather than reading online.”

Available on the Apple App Store and Google Play, the app will initially be released to patients at the International Medical Center Hospital in Jeddah, where it was developed in both Arabic and English, before it is offered to women across the country and, eventually, the world.

“We will assess, based on the feedback from our patients, whether any features need to be improved,” Abdelhaq said. “There is no specific app for women to date in Saudi Arabia, so it’s important this is done for them.”

Technology geared toward women’s health, known as femtech, is a rapidly emerging industry. According to a report from Research and Markets called “FemTech Market — Global Outlook and Forecast 2021-2026,” the sector was expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of over 13 percent during those five years.

With the health care industry increasingly adopting digital tools, the report found that 80 percent of women spend money on health products and make 90 percent of household decisions related to health issues. Overall, the global femtech market linked to maternal health is expected to reach over $19 billion by 2026.




Saudi medicine students wearing special 3D glasses listen to Egyptian Doctor Fawzy Deghedy as he explains his new cyber anatomy technique, which employs a virtual 3D anatomy machine, at the Saudi German hospital in Jeddah. (AFP/File Photo)

“It’s a huge tech-based industry focusing on developing female health,” Abdelhaq said. “It focuses on very specific issues for women.

“There are a lot of stages women go through — from menstruation cycles and pre- and post-menopause, to pregnancy, postpartum and using birth control. The idea is to improve our overall well-being, and digital tools are one way we can do that.

“Women are the primary decision makers when it comes to health care, but they also have little information, or they’re misunderstood.”

Such digital tools can be especially important for women in Saudi Arabia, as they take into account travel arrangements and religious duties, such as Umrah.

“It gives them that data, information and awareness overall to have everything listed out so that, when they go to the doctor, they know what symptoms to mention,” Abdelhaq said. “It helps early diagnosis.”

In particular, Abdelhaq highlighted the app’s role in monitoring polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects fertility, weight and hormones, and can be difficult to diagnose.

INNUMBERS

*13% - Femtech’s projected compounded annual growth rate from 2020 to 2026.

*$19 billion - Estimated global femtech market linked to maternal health by 2026.

(Source: Research and Markets)

The app is part of a set of digital solutions that the IMC Hospital aims to provide to women throughout Saudi Arabia. 

“As health care is progressively becoming more patient-centric and personalized, it is imperative we take into account the different needs of Saudi women and use technology to ensure it is both affordable and accessible,” Omer Sayyid, the app’s project manager, told Arab News.

“Globally, for decades, health-care products were developed, designed and delivered without considering the fact that women’s health care issues and needs are different from those of men. Machine learning, the internet of things, and artificial intelligence all have enormous potential to help devise interactive health solutions for women.”

From improved cancer screening and diagnosis of women-specific diseases, to better self-care management and engagement in dealing with pregnancy, menstruation cycle issues, or treating diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, depression and Alzheimer’s Disease, technology and science can work wonders at a faster rate if diverse needs and voices are incorporated into solutions, Sayyid believes.

“The majority of software, wearables and apps are focused on the fertility or pregnancy category of the femtech market, but we need to move beyond that,” he said. “We need to take into account the needs of women of all ages, not just the reproductive age — menopause and senior care are also important, as well as addressing chronic conditions and hormonal disorders.”

Abdelhaq admitted that there is also a financial incentive. Globally, software and tech companies addressing female biological needs generated $820 million in 2019. “But more importantly, it is a necessity, not a choice, that we include women to ensure we are healthier in current and future generations,” she said.

The new app will no doubt find a ready market. More than 34 percent of patients who use digital tech to track their health feel more in control, according to the Philips’ Future Health Index.




A preview of the IMC Women’s Health App. (Supplied)

“The app is an extension of the ‘digital front door’ — which is an integrated digital strategy for engaging patients,” Muhammad Siddiqui, the chief information officer at Jeddah’s IMC, told Arab News.

“The digital front door empowers patients and offers them a greater sense of autonomy, making it easier and less stressful to enter an insightful conversation about their care. With more transparency and communication, the patient-provider relationship is enhanced.”

The initiative also falls in line with Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s economic diversification and reform agenda. Saudi Arabia launched the health sector transformation program earlier this year to develop the health care system across the whole country.

The program is designed to restructure the Kingdom’s health sector and improve its capabilities, setting the health of every member of society at the forefront of its priorities.

“Overall, the IMC has a goal of aligning our facilities to Vision 2030,” Abdelhaq said. “We are looking — from a health perspective — to use more technology for the right purpose, rather than just innovating in the tech sector for the sake of it.

“We’re looking at empowering people, because without this process of improvement, technology is just a tool. In health care, we’re lagging behind in adopting technology compared with banking and finance. But now is an opportune moment to take that leap.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks

Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks
Updated 6 sec ago

Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks

Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks
TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday urged world powers to take a hard line against Iran in negotiations to curb the country’s nuclear program, as his top defense and intelligence officials headed to Washington amid the flailing talks.
Israel has been watching with concern as world powers sit down with Iran to jump-start talks on the tattered nuclear deal. Iran last week struck its own hard line as talks resumed in Vienna, suggesting everything discussed in previous rounds of diplomacy could be renegotiated. Iran also isn’t slowing down the advances in its atomic program, further raising the stakes in the talks, which are crucial to cooling years of tensions boiling in the wider Mideast.
Talks in Vienna aimed at re-imposing curbs on Iran’s nuclear program restarted last week after a more than five-month hiatus.
Israel has long opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, saying it didn’t go far enough to halt the country’s nuclear program and doesn’t address Iran’s military involvement in countries bordering Israel.
“I call on every country negotiating with Iran in Vienna to take a strong line and make it clear to Iran that they cannot enrich uranium and negotiate at the same time,” Bennett told a meeting of his Cabinet. “Iran must begin to pay a price for its violations.”
Israel is not a party to the negotiations but it has made a point of keeping up lines of communication with its European and American allies during the talks, which are set to resume this week.
Israeli spy chief David Barnea headed to Washington late Saturday on a previously unannounced trip and Defense Minister Benny Gantz leaves Wednesday for meetings with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was in London and Paris last week to discuss the talks with Israel’s European allies.

Jordan jails hospital chief over Covid deaths

Jordan jails hospital chief over Covid deaths
Updated 29 sec ago

Jordan jails hospital chief over Covid deaths

Jordan jails hospital chief over Covid deaths

AMMAN: A Jordanian court on Sunday sentenced to three years in jail the director of a state hospital over the deaths of 10 patients at the facility which treated coronavirus patients.

Abdel Razak al-Khashman and four aides were convicted of "causing the deaths" at the Salt state hospital where the patients died after it ran out of oxygen.

The verdict can be appealed within 10 days. 

The deaths in March sparked public anger in Jordan and led to the resignation of health minister Nazir Obeidat.

Hundreds of angry people gathered outside Al-Hussein Salt New Hospital, northwest of Amman, when news of the deaths spread.

King Abdullah visited the hospital and protesters surrounded his car as it neared the building.  


Israeli police questioned on Palestinian attacker’s shooting

Israeli police questioned on Palestinian attacker’s shooting
Updated 05 December 2021

Israeli police questioned on Palestinian attacker’s shooting

Israeli police questioned on Palestinian attacker’s shooting
  • A widely circulated video shot by a bystander appeared to show an officer from Israel’s paramilitary Border Police shooting the attacker
  • Israel says its security forces make every effort to avoid harming civilians and that it investigates alleged abuses

TEL AVIV, Israel: Israel’s Justice Ministry said Sunday that two police officers were brought in for questioning following the shooting death of a Palestinian who had stabbed an Israeli man in east Jerusalem.
Israeli police released surveillance video in which the attacker can be seen Saturday stabbing the ultra-Orthodox Jewish man and then trying to stab a Border Police officer before being shot and falling to the ground. Police identified the attacker as a 25-year-old from Salfit, in the occupied West Bank. Police could later be seen carrying the body away on a stretcher.
A widely circulated video shot by a bystander appeared to show an officer from Israel’s paramilitary Border Police shooting the attacker when he was already lying on the ground, and another appeared to show police with guns drawn preventing medics from reaching him, prompting calls for an investigation into possible excessive use of force.
The shooting drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground.
The Justice Ministry’s police investigations unit said the police officers were questioned shortly after the incident and released without conditions.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released a statement in support of the officers. Other leaders also defended their actions.
“It’s not clear if the terrorist maybe has an explosive belt. All sorts of things could happen,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who oversees the police, told Israeli Army Radio Sunday. “They acted correctly.”
The incident happened near Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, a tense and crowded area that is often the scene of demonstrations and clashes.
The Old City is in east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and considers the entire city its capital. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state, to include the West Bank and Gaza.
There have been dozens of attacks in recent years in and around the Old City, nearly all carried out by individual Palestinians with no known links to armed groups.
Palestinians and Israeli rights groups say security forces sometimes use excessive force in response to attacks, killing suspected assailants who could have been arrested or who posed no immediate threat to security forces.
Rights groups also say Israel rarely holds members of its security forces accountable for the deadly shootings of Palestinians. Investigations often end with no charges or lenient sentences, and in many cases witnesses are not summoned for questioning.
Israel says its security forces make every effort to avoid harming civilians and that it investigates alleged abuses.
In the widely publicized 2016 case, Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. Azaria later served two-thirds of a 14-month sentence after being convicted of reckless manslaughter.
His case sharply divided Israelis. The military pushed for his prosecution, saying he violated its code of ethics, while many Israelis, particularly on the nationalist right, defended his actions.
In a more recent case, a Border Police officer was charged with reckless manslaughter in the deadly shooting of an autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem’s Old City last year.
The indictment came just over a year after the shooting of Eyad Hallaq, whose family has criticized Israel’s investigation into the killing and called for much tougher charges. The shooting has drawn comparisons to the police killing of George Floyd in the United States.


Houthi militia launch 3 missiles towards Yemen’s Marib

Houthi militia launch 3 missiles towards Yemen’s Marib
Updated 05 December 2021

Houthi militia launch 3 missiles towards Yemen’s Marib

Houthi militia launch 3 missiles towards Yemen’s Marib
  • The attack comes after Yemen’s military and resistance forces made progress in Marib

RIYADH: The Houthi militia in Yemen reportedly fired three missiles in one hour in the country’s Marib governorate, Al Arabiya TV reported on Sunday. 

One missile landed in the airport, a correspondent for the channel said. 

The attack comes after Yemen’s military and resistance forces made progress in Marib, resulting in heavy losses for the Houthi militia. 

Major General Mansour Thawaba, the official in charge of operations carried out in Marib, confirmed the Yemeni army’s ‘remarkable progress’ in the area on Saturday.


Egyptian woman crowned world’s tallest dies from kidney failure

Egyptian woman crowned world’s tallest dies from kidney failure
Updated 55 min 47 sec ago

Egyptian woman crowned world’s tallest dies from kidney failure

Egyptian woman crowned world’s tallest dies from kidney failure
  • Abdel-Gawad was the holder of three titles in the Guinness World Records
  • Huda, as well as her brother Mohammed Abdel-Gawad, have been bullied for their physical appearance due to a defect in their pituitary glands

DUBAI: The world’s tallest woman Huda Abdel-Gawad died in Egypt’s Sharqiyah province at the age of 27 after suffering from kidney failure, according to local reports.

Abdel-Gawad was the holder of three titles in the Guinness World Records: the largest hand of a living woman with a length of 24.3 cm, the largest foot at 33.1 cm and the widest arms of a surviving woman at 236.3 cm.

Huda, as well as her brother Mohammed Abdel-Gawad, have been bullied for their physical appearance due to a defect in their pituitary glands, which affected their weight and height.

Mohammed Abdel-Gawad, 33, got two Guinness World Records: the widest arms of a living man at 250.3 cm, and the widest hand of a surviving man at a length of 31.3 cm.