Let’s talk about the government’s ‘Women’s Health Strategy’
After strong evidence of inequalities existing within the healthcare system, the UK government along with the Department of Health and Social Care launched a new positive and ambitious Women’s Health Strategy to ensure that health services met women’s demands on International Women’s Day. Women are encouraged to share their experiences of the healthcare system through a phone call survey that spans over 12 weeks.
Dr. Greeta Nargund, senior NHS consultant, said: “ It is fantastic to see the government make this vital first step towards tackling the gender health gap. It is a move that will support the NHS and our entire healthcare system to effectively utilise their resources and deliver the best service it possibly can for women across the UK. We want to make the UK a world leader in women’s health and look forward to working with the Department of Health as they strive to achieve this goal.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, female life expectancy is about 83 years which is higher than males at about 79 years, however, women spend over a quarter of their life in poor health or with disabilities. Additionally, female healthy life expectancy (HLE) has significantly decreased in recent years, while HLE for males remains unchanged since 2014.
Meanwhile, many studies suggested that gender-bias in clinical trials and research contribute to worse health outcomes for women. According to the University of Leeds’ research, women with a total blockage of a coronary artery were 59% more likely than men to get an initial misdiagnosis, and those who were misdiagnosed had a 70% increased risk of death in 30 days. Also, independent reports and inquiries such as the First do no harm report and the Paterson Inquiry report found that the healthcare system fails to listen to women and keep them safe.
“We absolutely must change this.”, Nadine Dorries, Minister for Women’s Health said. It is clear that “damaging taboos and stigmas remain around many areas of women’s health” and it can “prevent women from starting conversations about their health or seeking support for a health issue. When women do speak about their health, all too often, they are not listened to.”
Similarly, Janet Lindsay, Director of the health research charity Wellbeing of Women, said that women influence the health behaviours but they “are struggling to find the information they need to ask the right questions about their health and regularly meet barriers when they attempt to book routine appointments to access basic health needs.”
Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, said in a statement: “For generations, women have lived with a health and care system that is mostly designed by men, for men.” This means that “not enough is known about conditions that only affect women, or about how conditions that affect both men and women impact women in different ways.” He pointed out that the “male by default” of the past should be put right. “To build this strategy, we need to hear from those who it directly impacts. I urge all women, and those who have experiences or expertise in women’s health, to come forward and share their views with us to inform the future of this important strategy.”
Apparently, the Women’s Health Strategy is the journey to equality in the healthcare system and reflects what women identify as priorities. It includes the 6 core themes in the call of evidence as follows:
1. Placing women’s voices at the centre of their health and care.
2. Improving the quality and accessibility of information and education on women’s health
3. Ensuring the health and care system is responsive to women’s health and care needs across the life course
4. Maximising women’s health in the workplace: understanding how women’s health issues can affect their workforce participation and outcomes such as menopause
5. Ensuring that research, evidence and data support improvements in women’s health
6. Understanding and responding to the impacts of COVID-19 on women’s health: identifying solutions that will bridge the gender gaps and ensure equitable access to women’s health services as the pandemic has put an additional burden on working mothers and women with disabilities.
The call for evidence will run for 12 weeks from 8 March until 30 May 2021, at 11.45 pm.
Women aged 16 and over interested in this call for evidence can complete the public survey and those from individuals or organisations who have expertise in women’s health can submit written submissions.