Prioritizing Women’s Health Through Health Checks

Women’s Health Week reminds women that ‘it’s okay to put themselves first’

By Matthew Hart

Women’s Health Week (September 5-11) serves as a timely reminder for women to prioritise their health and well-being and to remain aware of the health checks and resources that are available to them to ensure optimal health.

However, alarmingly, the Jean Hailes National Women’s Health Survey found a significant decrease in the number of women rating their health as “very good” or “excellent” compared to five years ago.

The survey also found that 44 per cent of all women said they could not afford to see a doctor or health professional. Overall, 44 per cent of women said they found it difficult to get an appointment with a doctor or health professional when they required one.

One-third said they had missed a dental visit and one in five said they had missed a GP health check. Eight per cent said they had missed either a mammogram to check for breast cancer or a cervical cancer screening.

Caring responsibilities seemed to present the biggest barrier for women accessing healthcare, with thirteen per cent of women revealing they cared for someone with a disability or additional needs and 22 per cent had dependent children.

Despite the roadblocks to women prioritising their health, nearly 40 per cent of women claimed that access to free or more affordable childcare, or respite care, would help them stay healthy.

These findings indicate that it is of paramount importance that women’s health is brought into the spotlight, in order to understand why women’s health is being rated so low and the ways in which women can reclaim good health and prioritise their well-being.

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Women’s Health Week & Community Engagement Manager Renea Camilleri stressed that although “it may seem absurd”, women need to be reminded “that it’s okay to put themselves first”.

“So often they put the needs of family, friends, even their pets, above their own,” Camilleri said.

“These seven days will be a perfect opportunity to prioritise their own health.”

Jean Hailes for Women’s Health CEO, Janet Michelmore AO offered a further explanation on why women come last when it comes to health and wellbeing, claiming that women “didn’t have the time due to other responsibilities which were magnified by the pandemic”.

Financial pressures also impacted women’s access to adequate healthcare, with women suffering “the most from financial pressures with most at the lower end of employment such as part-time positions”.

“We also know going to medical appointments can be complicated especially when they are caring for other people, particularly little children which can be complicated,” Michelmore said.

In order to remedy this glaring problem, Michelmore suggests that “the power of connection is really important, people are much more likely to be motivated to do something if they have that peer support”.

“Workplaces can make it easier for women with regular health checks and also by encouraging health checks, it makes economic sense because if they get sick they are away from work,” she said.

More than anything it comes down to everyone doing “their part to ensure women are fit, healthy and mentally well” which is the major focus of Women’s Health Week.

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“It’s all about making it easier to get women to get their health back on track, supporting women with their caring responsibilities, and sharing the workload,” Michelmore explained.

With these strategies to provide women with the opportunity to put their health needs first, Dr. Tessa King, a specialist women’s health general practitioner (GP) at  Jean Hailes for Women’s Health clinics, believes women will be able to “improve” their “quality of life” and increase their “enjoyment of life”.

“If you are feeling healthy then you have more time and energy for the things and people that you love,” King said.

King stresses, however, that it is important to utilise the benefit that comes from having support to get the necessary health checks that will ensure optimal health.

“There are lots of health checks for women aged 50 and over including 2 yearly breast cancer and bowel cancer screening and 5 yearly cervical cancer screening. It’s also recommended that you should have your cardiovascular risk assessed every 2 years,” she said.

“Staying on top of these is really important.

“However, the most important thing that should take priority is if you have any symptoms or signs that concern you, and then seeing your doctor about these should take precedent. It might be a good idea when you’re seeing your doctor about something to book a long appointment so you can make sure you are up to date on all your health checks and preventative health.”

Over 2300 events are set to kick off across the country as part of Women’s Health Week in an effort to encourage women to reflect on their own health and well-being.

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Image: Jean Hailes Women’s Health Week

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