Our healthcare system is a mess. With her new book, medical expert Dr. Sharon Malone (seen here) is helping women – especially aging women – navigate rough waters. (Credit: Dr. Sharon Malone’s Instagram account)

There is a growing crisis around women’s healthcare, both here and abroad.

The World Economic Forum, in a 2024 report, said that women are “second-class citizens” when it comes to accessing and affording safe, reliable healthcare – “for every one woman diagnosed with a health condition, roughly four go undiagnosed,” it reads. And that the problem could cost as much $1 trillion to fix, researchers added.

Dr. Sharon Malone, a board-certified OB/GYN and a certified menopause practitioner, wrote the book on these failures – for example, she notes at one point that women weren’t even required for inclusion in clinical trials until 1993. She also doles out advice on how women can navigate around these oversights and hurdles to get the care they need – especially as they get older. 

Released Tuesday, that work – “Grown Woman Talk: Your Guide to Getting and Staying Healthy” – was written to both sound the alarm on the problem, and offer fellow women guidance and solace. “I’m not writing this book just as a doctor. I’m writing it because I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. I’m a friend,” she said when discussing its release with NPR

Indeed, this is personal for Malone, who many might know from social media and regular media appearances. In the beginning of the book, she tells the story of her mother, who died of colon cancer when Malone was 12. “Even as a child, I knew there was something really wrong with what happened there. [T]he care that she got was really dependent upon what her relationship was with medicine, and with doctors – and to be honest with you, she didn’t have a relationship” with them due to her rural upbringing in Alabama.

She added, “And, you know, I think it cost her her life.”

Malone wants to make sure others don’t suffer the same fate – just as she’s aimed to do throughout her 30-plus-year career in Washington, D.C. She presently works toward that goal, in part, as the chief medical officer of Alloy Women’s Health, a startup offering menopause information and products to alleviate symptoms.

“We are so far behind in terms of how we value women’s lives,” Malone said to NPR of her observations from inside the industry, adding that only maternal health, specifically, is perhaps granted a slight exception. But “what we don’t talk about is the totality of women’s health – and we’re going to spend much more of our lives in … non-pregnant states.”

So what can women do for themselves? First, says Malone, they must take charge of their health — as she puts it, “You are the captain of your own ship. You are your primary caregiver.” Then, she suggests sorting out who you visit for medical care as soon as possible, lining up a physician and a gynecologist, and making the most of visits by preparing for them in advance.

And for those staring down perimenopause and menopause, Malone says that “there are a lot of things that we should know and not be afraid to discuss, because they can be addressed.”

Though her book’s subject matter is heavy, there are also moments of levity peppered throughout – for example, song suggestions peppered throughout, which she added for balance. “In my book, I talk about tough things. We talk about cancer. We talk about heart disease. We talk about Alzheimer’s,” she notes.

Malone continued: “And if there’s anything I want you to take away … it’s that not only do you have more control over the medical interaction you have with your physicians, you have more control over your health, and your outcomes.”