Launch of first Women's Health Strategy in England

Janet Lindsay comments on the publication of a new strategy aimed at improving the health of women

by Janet Lindsay, CEO, Wellbeing of Women | 20th Jul 2022

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We very much welcome the publication of the first ever Women’s Health Strategy in England. A key focus on prioritising women’s health is long overdue, as the health of women has been neglected and under-funded for many generations, with shocking inequalities persisting across society.

While women live for longer than men on average, they also spend more of their life in poor health, often limiting their ability to work and take part in everyday life.

We know women don’t always feel listened to, and often have their symptoms dismissed. They can struggle to access the information they desperately need or have difficulty knowing where to go to for advice and support. Access to diagnosis and treatment can take too long, leaving many women suffering with debilitating symptoms.

Women's Voices

By listening to women’s voices, the new strategy outlines actions on key areas to address these issues. These include improving information for women, ensuring doctors and medical students receive appropriate training, tackling the inequality of IVF provision, recognising baby loss before 24 weeks, and greater investment into research.

With more women in work than ever before, it is reassuring to see a focus on improving health in the workplace, including menstrual health and the menopause. As our Menopause Workplace Pledge has shown, even simple supportive measures can make a difference for women.

Health hubs

We are pleased that women’s health hubs will be encouraged – these are one-stop-shop clinics, which women can visit for their reproductive and gynaecological health needs. Most healthcare services are simply not developed with women in mind and far too many still struggle to access basic services, such as contraception and cervical screening, so this is a positive development.

There is little awareness of women’s health symptoms and treatments, so it is positive that there will be improved access to high-quality information and education. And, for too long, there has been an unacceptable postcode lottery when it comes to IVF treatment and support, so it is reassuring to see commitments around making access to these services available to all, including same-sex couples.

Baby loss and endometriosis

Women, their partners and families deserve to have the devastating loss of their baby before 24 weeks acknowledged, and the introduction of certification will help towards this. Meanwhile, a greater focus on improving endometriosis specialist services to make sure these have the latest evidence and advice is very welcome for the many women who suffer from this painful condition.

Importantly, the strategy reinforces a commitment to tackling inequalities in women’s health.

A new focus

The Women’s Health Strategy must herald a step change in how we approach women’s health, including applying a life-course approach to preventing disease and managing health, as well as addressing long-term cultural and system changes.

To achieve these goals, there needs to be investment in appropriate and sustained funding to achieve the vision set out and we are keen to understand the plans around this. With the change in government, it is crucial that the next Prime Minister continues to prioritise the strategy and improve the health of 51% of our population.

The work has only just begun if we are to close the gender health gap for good. We look forward to collaborating with the government and key partners to bring this strategy to life and make a difference for millions of women and girls across the country.

The Women's Health Strategy can be viewed in full here. Our Chair Professor Dame Lesley Regan, as Women's Health Ambassador, will support implementation of strategy. Listen on BBC Women's Hour to an interview with Dame Lesley Regan and Women's Health Minister Maria Caulfield.