An illustration of a woman indicating she needs to use the bathroom.
Not one-size-fits-all
by Gloria Kolb

As we discuss women’s health, it is crucial to acknowledge the pressing need for inclusive and accessible health care solutions that cater to the diverse needs of all communities. Despite remarkable advances in medical science, certain health issues continue to disproportionately impact minority populations, underscoring the importance of addressing these disparities with a culturally sensitive and comprehensive approach.

One such prevalent yet often overlooked condition is urinary incontinence among women, an issue that profoundly impacts quality of life across cultural boundaries. I have committed to tackling this challenge head-on, prioritizing the development of solutions that are not only medically effective but also respectful of the diverse cultural backgrounds and preferences of women worldwide. It requires us to recognize that health care should not be a one-size-fits-all endeavor but a nuanced and inclusive approach that considers different communities' unique needs and sensitivities.

The Prevalence of Women’s Incontinence

Urinary incontinence among women represents a significant and widespread health challenge that demands urgent attention. The statistics paint a sobering picture, with one in three women over the age of 30 experiencing some form of incontinence. This figure transcends individual discomfort, posing a broader public health concern that impacts millions globally.

The economic ramifications of this condition are equally profound. An in-depth analysis reveals a heavy financial toll on health care systems and the individuals affected, with expenses ranging from direct costs such as treatments and medications to indirect costs like lost productivity and diminished quality of life. When viewed through a global lens, the prevalence of incontinence is so vast that it can be likened to the population of the U.S.—the world's third-largest country—a stark illustration of the enormity of the issue at hand.

Furthermore, the burden of incontinence is not distributed equally across all communities. Studies have shown while some minority groups may have a lower overall risk, those affected often suffer more severely from the condition. This disparity highlights the importance of understanding the unique challenges faced by diverse populations and tailoring solutions accordingly.

With such a widespread and impactful health issue, urinary incontinence is not a fringe medical condition but a mainstream crisis warranting urgent attention and action.

Cultural Sensitivity in Treatment Options

Intravaginal devices, commonly used in Western medicine to manage incontinence, often clash with the cultural norms and personal preferences of women from specific backgrounds. For many, the use of such devices is either taboo or uncomfortable due to deeply rooted cultural beliefs regarding bodily integrity and modesty. This cultural dissonance limits the accessibility of these traditional treatments, leaving a significant portion of the population without viable solutions that align with their values and preferences.

Understanding and respecting these cultural differences is paramount in the health care field. Providing a one-size-fits-all solution is inadequate; medical innovators must ensure that treatments are appropriate and respectful of patient's diverse cultural backgrounds. Failure to do so can lead to lower adherence rates, reduced treatment effectiveness and, ultimately, poorer health outcomes.

In addition, there has long been a gap in treatment for incontinence. After trying Kegel exercises on your own, options by health care providers usually meant surgery. Many minority groups often present with more severe symptoms because they are less likely to seek treatment from a health care provider early on. When they are only offered costly surgical treatments or weekly in-office procedures requiring time off of work, the cycle perpetuates. There is a need for a conservative, easy at-home treatment that women can treat earlier in their incontinence journey.

Health care providers and researchers must engage with different cultural groups, understand their specific needs and concerns, and offer treatments that are both medically effective and culturally appropriate. Only by embracing this inclusive approach can we truly address the widespread issue of urinary incontinence in a manner that resonates with and benefits women from all walks of life.

Empowering Women Through Inclusive Solutions

Through extensive research and collaboration with health care providers, community leaders and women themselves, we have gained invaluable insights into the cultural nuances that shape preferences and acceptability of certain treatments. Armed with this knowledge, we have dedicated ourselves to developing solutions that offer medical efficacy and prioritize cultural sensitivity and personal empowerment.

By offering a solution that seamlessly integrates into women's daily lives without compromising their values or comfort, we empower them to take control of their health journey on their own terms.

Moreover, we actively promote open conversations and work to destigmatize the often-taboo topic of incontinence. By fostering an environment of understanding and support, we encourage women from all backgrounds to speak openly about their experiences, seek help without shame and embrace solutions that improve their overall well-being.

The Way Forward

While significant strides have been made in addressing the prevalent issue of urinary incontinence among women, the journey toward comprehensive and inclusive solutions is far from over. On the medical front, we should persistently explore new avenues for developing treatments that are not only effective but also aligned with the diverse cultural preferences and needs of women worldwide. This pursuit involves ongoing collaboration with health care professionals, researchers and community leaders to gain deeper insights into the unique challenges faced by different populations.

True progress requires a multifaceted approach, including advocating for inclusive health care policies and initiatives that prioritize equitable access to culturally sensitive care. That’s how we can drive systemic changes that break down barriers and empower women from all backgrounds.

By promoting understanding and normalizing discussions around this often-taboo topic, we can create an environment where seeking help is encouraged and solutions are embraced without shame or hesitation.

Gloria Kolb, CEO and co-founder of Elitone, invents solutions for women's health, including a Food and Drug Administration-cleared wearable for urinary incontinence. With 30 patents and awards like CES Innovation 2024, she's a Forbes-recognized innovator. She holds degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University and an MBA from Babson College. Visit