Spotting the gap in women’s healthcare

A Jean Hailes’ survey of women’s health concerns informed the 2015 Women’s Health week.

Spotting the gap in women’s healthcare

The team at Jean Hailes is well known for spotting gaps in women’s healthcare knowledge and providing answers to the big questions.

In an Australian first, Jean Hailes surveyed 3325 women and health professionals about their greatest health fears and worries. The results provide a wealth of data that shines a light on women from all backgrounds and regions of Australia. It highlighted:

  • women’s top four health concerns
  • what they want to know more about
  • what they think they know lots about
  • what health practitioners think women worry about or need to know.

The survey findings formed the basis for this year’s Women’s Health Week campaign. The week’s theme, ‘Getting rid of the elephant in the room’, encouraged women to talk about health topics that may often go unmentioned. 

Each of the five days of Women’s Health Week were dedicated to discussing the topics that are most concerning for Australian women.

Monday focussed on the top four issues about which women said they were most worried: healthy living, including weight management, diet and exercise; female-specific cancers; mental and emotional health; and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The good news is that making simple lifestyle changes can reduce some of the biggest risk factors for some cancers and CVD.

Jean Hailes dietitian Anna Waldron says, “Although there is much evidence about the benefits of eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, often the cancer prevention benefit is overlooked. It seems that specific fruit and vegetables are likely to reduce specific cancers so eating a wide variety of different plant foods, including fruit and vegetables, is the best approach to reducing cancer risk. We know that very few Australians are eating the amount of fruit and vegetables recommended, and this is an important dietary change many women can make.”

Tuesday covered natural therapies, including acupuncture, herbal treatments, supplements and traditional Chinese medicine. The survey revealed that 73 per cent of women want to know more about the safety and efficacy of these treatments. And an estimated 70 per cent of Australians use some form of natural therapy. Key points covered were:

  • always inform your medical doctor if you are using any natural therapy 
  • seek out a qualified, registered therapist who is a member of a known association by visiting ANTA (Australian Natural Therapist Association) or AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency).

Wednesday was about mental health and domestic violence – how best to seek out help and advice, and what to do if you’re worried about someone in this situation. It was made clear that women all over Australia would like to know more about both of these subjects.

There was a video of Jean Hailes psychologist Dr Mandy Deeks giving some great tips on mental and emotional health, as well as a podcast from Professor Jane Fisher, director of the Jean Hailes Research Unit, explaining the facts of domestic violence, and how to support someone experiencing it.

To find help and assistance please contact:

  • 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) National sexual assault, domestic family violence and counselling service
  • the Jean Hailes anxiety portal – Anxiety: Learn, Think, Do – offers useful information and assistance about anxiety and depression, nationwide.

Thursday covered CVD and how to recognise the symptoms of it in women. CVD, which includes stroke and heart disease, is the biggest killer of women in Australia. One woman dies of a heart attack every two hours and more women die from stroke than breast cancer.

Some of the risk factors for CVD, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, can be addressed if caught early enough. Knowledge is power. Most cardiovascular diseases can be avoided by changing behavioural risk factors such as tobacco use, obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and alcohol use.

Friday brought everything together, discussing how we can all live healthier lives. Physical activity can reduce blood pressure, improve your mood and lower cholesterol. Some simple changes to make a healthier you are:

  • be physically active for 30 minutes each day. After just 12 minutes exercise, your brain starts to release feel good hormones (serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline), which act in a similar fashion to antidepressants. You don’t have to go to the gym to achieve this, it’s as simple as dancing to your favourite music for a few sessions each day
  • stop smoking, reduce alcohol intake and drink more water
  • follow Australian healthy food guidelines, and aim for a balanced diet packed with fruit and vegetables.

If you haven’t already, make sure you are registered so you don’t miss out on Women’s Health Week in 2016.

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women's Health


    To make a comment, please register or login
    16th Oct 2015
    Respectfully this is a sexist publication. There seems to be a plethora of women only articles like this and about time the media as a whole was investigated for sexism in journalism.
    Just imagine what would come back from the women's liberation groups if you tried to run repeated men only article like this. Not even worth contemplating.
    16th Oct 2015
    Women and men have different bodies and different heath needs. Just because it isn't all about my gender, doesn't mean the article is irrelevant. Although the heading mentions women, read the article fully and you will see that much of the information is very general and much of the take home message is the same for everyone, male or female. (Cut back on alcohol, don't smoke, do 30 mins exercise and eat carefully and include lots of plant foods.)
    There is also an annual Men's Health Week, so check that one out too. I saw there were 23 different events advertised here in WA.
    16th Oct 2015
    Also consider that perhaps women (and women's organisations) are more pro-active than men when it comes to their health!
    17th Oct 2015
    In a way I agree with you. I can never condone violence by anyody, male or female.
    I hope they mention about violence when the have the Men's Health Week too.
    I know a guy who was hit in the face with a spiky high heel shoe which took a few weeks to heal. He did the right thing and walked away.

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