Further research is needed in developing countries to test the feasibility of implementing clinic-based therapy which leverages the company’s Leva device.

Katie Hobbins, Managing Editor

March 8, 2024

3 Min Read
Female medical professional treating patient
Hugh Sitton / Stone via Getty Images

Axena Health, a medical technology company focused on female pelvic health, has unveiled the findings of its landmark study to understand the far-reaching impacts of urinary incontinence (UI) on women in sub-Saharan Africa. The study, which enrolled 175 women and healthcare providers in Kenya and Nigeria, was done in collaboration with ThinkPlace — a global design thinking and strategy firm.

Pelvic floor disorders affect one-third of women globally, according to Axena, with UI being the most common. A lack of awareness of incontinence in women continues to contribute to low care seeking behaviors and is associated with negative psychosocial, economic, and physical burdens — especially as symptoms worsen over time when left untreated.

The study, which Axena said is the first of its kind, revealed the need for awareness, education, and access to treatment options for women in developing countries. Specifically, the company said, the study will inform the development of treatment options based on the Leva Pelvic Health system’s mechanism of action while respecting cultural norms. These options would also be available through local healthcare delivery systems.

“We believe this is the first large-scale qualitative study to document the significant burden of incontinence among women in Kenya and Nigeria,” said Oliver Muchiri, co-author of the report and practice lead, Service and Systems Design Unit at ThinkPlace Kenya, in the press release. “We believe there’s tremendous need for education, awareness, and care in Kenya and Nigeria and other low- and middle-income countries. We hope the insights will inspire new global, cooperative efforts that respond to these women’s voices and clinicians’ call for accessible, evidence-based treatment that’s reliable and scalable.”

The Leva Pelvic Health system is a prescription medical device that treats UI and chronic fecal incontinence non-invasively and medication-free. The device combines a small intra-vaginal probe embedded with multiple motion sensors and integrated software to allow women to visualize pelvic floor muscle movement in real-time and guide them to completing treatment correctly.

Through conversations, focus groups, and quantitative surveys, women and clinicians expressed the need for UI treatment modalities in their communities. Clinicians also acknowledged the effectiveness of pelvic floor muscle training for UI and highlighted the need to educate healthcare workers on how to evaluate and manage pelvic floor disorders.

“This research showed that women recognize the importance of pelvic floor muscle exercises and clinicians want to support structured and supervised pelvic floor muscle training and education,” said Laura Keyser, DPT, MPH, director of clinical strategy and global health at Axena Health. “We hope this report elevates the conversation about pelvic floor disorders for women in Nigeria, Kenya and other low- and middle-income countries.”

Clinicians involved in the study also called for additional research to help understand the prevalence of UI in sub-Saharan Africa and “expressed the critical need for effective treatment that would allow them to treat large populations,” according to the release.

Axena plans to conduct a second study in Nigeria to test the feasibility of implementing clinic-based therapy that leverages Leva’s technology for the treatment of such disorders.

About the Author(s)

Katie Hobbins

Managing Editor, MD+DI

Katie Hobbins is managing editor for MD+DI and joined the team in July 2022. She boasts multiple previous editorial roles in print and multimedia medical journalism, including dermatology, medical aesthetics, and pediatric medicine. She graduated from Cleveland State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and promotional communications. She enjoys yoga, hand embroidery, and anything DIY. You can reach her at [email protected].

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