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Let’s make life better for women
By Janet Michelmore AO, Acting CEO, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
Source: APNA Primary Times Spring 2020 (Volume 20, Issue 2)
When the history of 2020 is written, it will tell of a generation of Australians enduring isolation, uncertainty and anxiety, who defined themselves by courage in the face of an invisible enemy, COVID-19.
We’ll take stock, personally and collectively. Some of us will reflect on what we lost, others on what we learned; about ourselves and about our world. We have witnessed the kindness of strangers, the acts of selflessness and generosity, the ebullience and resilience of communities, the stoicism of health professionals. In so many ways, this has also been a pandemic of kindness.
Women have often been at the heart of this, nurturing their families and friends. But while they have focused on managing the health and wellbeing of others, it has, in some instances, come at a cost to their own.
For example, during the lockdown, there was a significant drop in the number of women presenting for cervical screening. Data from a major private laboratory found that in March 2020, HPV testing rates fell 61 per cent compared to those recorded a month earlier. At the height of the lockdown in April, rates were down 76 per cent compared to the February weekly average. In May, despite some recovery, the numbers were still down 37 per cent.
Research conducted during April’s lockdown also revealed very high rates of people experiencing significant symptoms of depression and anxiety. One in four had mild to moderate symptoms according to the research undertaken by Professor Jane Fisher and her team at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. Women were identified as being among the most vulnerable groups.
As someone who is passionate about the health and wellbeing of women in Australia, I am worried by the data. It was one of the reasons Jean Hailes signed up to the Continuity of Care Collaboration (CCC), a union of peak bodies, industry and healthcare organisations. The CCC was established because of concerns that, due to the pandemic, many people in Australia were not maintaining their regular doctor visits for chronic conditions or were putting off seeing their doctor to get a test, investigation or immunisation.
In its National Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030, the Federal Government has committed to a framework that will improve the quality of life for women. We know the challenges ahead are formidable – improving sexual and reproductive health, ensuring we provide the best care for our ageing female population, combatting high rates of chronic conditions and mental ill-health, and addressing the health impacts of violence.
"Nurses have always touched the lives of their patients. Their eyes and ears can make such a difference to health outcomes."
APNA has thousands of nurse members, most of them women, and is therefore a powerful voice in advocating for better women’s health. That voice can be heard in each of the clinical settings in which you work, in each of the clients you treat. But it all begins with the woman in the mirror and how she cares for her own health.
We hope that Jean Hailes may be of some help to nurses, both personally and professionally. To support your ongoing professional development, we offer webinars on a range of topics that directly affect women’s health, such as endometriosis, bone health and cardiovascular health. We also provide practice support tools for the assessment and management of certain conditions. You can find all these resources at jeanhailes.org.au/health-professionals.
You might even find some of the topics we cover helpful on a personal level. Please come and visit us at jeanhailes.org.au