In response to the infuriating lack of health resources for women, Jane Mitchell, Courtney Snavely and Maddy Siriouthay founded Ovee, an online health platform and community.
To learn more about Ovee and the issues vagina-havers are facing today, we chatted with Courntey.
Here’s what she had to say:
Public Goods: What exactly is Ovee? What do people get out of your community?
Courtney Snavely: In short: Ovee is a sexual and reproductive health hub for people with vaginas.
If you’re a human with access to the internet, odds are when you are embarrassed about a health symptom you’re going to Google it. Unfortunately for people with vulvas, when we google something as common as vaginal discharge, we might find everything ranging from “you’re pregnant” to “put a yogurt soaked tampon up your vagina.”
What we provide people is a safe space where they can get accurate educational — and sometimes re-educational — content, find curated products personalized to their specific needs, and most importantly have a supportive community as they navigate their sexual and reproductive health.
PG: Tell us a bit about your background. What led you to found Ovee?
CS: Jane and I have fairly similar backgrounds: We had both studied biology and pre-med in our undergraduate; I had gone to work in a medical research lab, and she had worked in clinical cancer research, both ultimately deciding that the medical world wasn’t for us.
We had our very first studio class together in the Design and Tech grad program at Parsons, immediately bonded over our shared science backgrounds and worked on a number of projects together. Maddy joined the team as head of content and social media after freelancing for us for a year.
Ovee started because we were FRUSTRATED with our own reproductive healthcare — not being able to find accurate information or a physical clinic to get UTI medication. We started having intimate discussions with friends, friends of friends, roommates of friends of friends about their healthcare experiences and realized we weren’t the only ones. People didn’t know what information to trust on the internet, they had trouble finding things that would work for them, and really just wanted to hear from with other women going through a similar experience.
After talking with hundreds of vagina-havers, we were like, ‘OK, we have the medical research backgrounds, we know user-centered design, we know how to program. Let’s build something to help with these problems.’
PG: What about this day and age makes something like Ovee so important?
CS: I think with our current socio/political climate, women are facing more barriers than ever when it comes to accessing reproductive healthcare. We aren’t getting access to the care we need, our school system has failed us when it comes to sexual education (only 13 states require sex ed to be medically accurate), and we’re told from an early age that our bodies are something we aren’t allowed to talk about. The fact that we separate boys from girls to talk about menstruation in school already establishes a narrative that women’s bodies are stigmatized and not something to be discussed.
Barriers to access, both social and physical, are the reason why we hear stories from our community like the woman who was so embarrassed to go to the gynecologist she drank cranberry juice for months in the hopes that her UTI would go away (spoiler: she actually had chlamydia).
What we’re trying to do with Ovee is make conversations around sexual and reproductive health more normalized so no one needs to feel ashamed or embarrassed, and give people the resources to take control over their bodies when everything else feels out of their control.
PG: What’s next for Ovee? How would you like it to evolve?
CS: SO many things coming up for Ovee this fall. We’ve been working on a lot of product partnerships over the summer, so look out for some new BOX BOX’s this fall, including a new BYOB (build your own box). We’re also working on a bunch of product reviews for menstrual products and figuring out how to have a sustainable period if you’re not into cups or discs.
Evolving in the long term, we want to expand to address other demographics. For vagina-havers who are dealing with fertility, perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause there really isn’t a ton of information or support out there. Our ultimate goal is to evolve with our users and support them as their sexual and reproductive healthcare needs change.
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