This interview with Kathryn is part of our series highlighting women-led startups, which are providing accessible solutions to address the unmet healthcare needs of women, including reproductive and maternal health.
I envision the future of women’s health research and innovation moving towards reducing maternal mortality - especially in the United States - and empowering society’s caretakers - mothers - to have greater autonomy in their own life, allowing them to take better care of their children and create a better future.
Can you tell us about your background and how it led you to starting your company?
My younger brother was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after a near-drowning accident and while my family found hope in umbilical cord blood
treatments, they ultimately could not find a match for him due to the lack of diversity in umbilical cord blood donors. After my brother passed away, I became passionate about the healthcare industry, specifically women's health, and wanted to spread awareness about umbilical cord blood banking through a warm, approachable brand prioritizing user experience and accessibility, leading to the creation of Anja Health.
You can read more about my story here: https://www.anjahealth.com/blog/kathryns-story-anja-health
Can you explain what your product or service does and the main problem it's trying to solve?
We’re trying to better access to stem cell treatments. Our product is a kit that parents can take with them to birth in order to save stem cells from their umbilical cord and placenta. After placing their umbilical cord blood, cord tissue, and/or placenta in our kit, parents can call us for pickup, and we will bring their stem cells to our lab, where it will be processed and cryopreserved for future use.
Can you share any success stories or positive impact that your product/service has had on women's health so far?
We have helped hundreds of thousands of parents with our free birth resources at tiktok.com/@kathrynanja, our community anjahealth.com/community, and more. We’ve also given peace of mind to thousands of parents as they are able to offer their children future treatments right from birth.
What is the biggest misconception about your work or business or space?
That umbilical cords and placentas are medical waste - most parents don’t even know about cord blood and placenta banking as an option. Our biggest competitor is the biohazard waste bin. 😢
What role do you see for technology and digital health in improving women's health outcomes?
It will improve women’s health outcomes by offering up an additional treatment option for folks who need a stem cell treatment in the future. In addition, one of our secondary missions is to allow parents to have a better birth experience overall, especially since cord blood banking is such an integral part of birth. So, we hope to work towards empowering parents with information that will allow them to feel empowered in their decision-making, including what they can do with their umbilical cord and placenta. So, we hope to play any part that we can in minimizing poor birth outcomes, especially maternal mortality.
How do you envision the future of women's health research and innovation, and what role do you see for your organization in shaping this future?
Melinda Gates says it best in The Moment of Lift - you can improve overall societal outcomes by empowering women with choice in their own health outcomes. I envision the future of women’s health research and innovation moving towards reducing maternal mortality - especially in the United States - and empowering society’s caretakers - mothers - to have greater autonomy in their own life, allowing them to take better care of their children and create a better future.
Women’s health access is not only important for women, but for future children of all genders.
What is the biggest thing you learned in your work that you'd want others interested in pursuing careers in women's health leadership to know?
Maternal mortality is rising in the United States, and 80% of birth-related deaths are preventable. The leading cause is mental health issues. Community is endlessly important. Parents who are empowered with contraception can have a chance at building up their own life, community, and financial well-being before having a child, so women’s health access is not only important for women, but for future children of all genders.
Join the Movement and Apply for the Women's Health Research Award Today!
We're on a mission to support researchers helping make a difference in women's health. The Women's Health Research Award is open to all researchers (students included) researching or planning to research a topic in women's health using data from wearables.