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Australian Women’s Health Week 2022

Australian Women's Health Week

Women’s Health Week is Australia’s most prominent social gathering devoted to promoting the health and wellness of women and girls. It is a nationwide initiative consisting of events and online activities to enhance women’s health and assist them in making healthier decisions.

Spearheaded by Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, this September weeklong celebration serves as an annual reminder for women to make time and prioritise their health and wellbeing. The fun and exciting part is that nobody has to do it alone.

About Jean Hailes for Women’s Health

Jean Hailes for Women’s Health is a national women’s health organisation committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Australian women. They offer professional health information, education, and support services to assist women in managing their health and welfare throughout their lives. They aim to empower women to make informed choices to live healthier, happier lives.

How Australia’s Women’s Health Week Started?

Having realised that there was no recurring event that centred on women’s health in Australia, this gave birth to the first national Women’s Health Week back in 2013. Organised and run by Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, thousands of women from all walks of life sign up to participate in offline and online activities annually.

No recurring women’s health event in Australia led to the first Women’s Health Week in 2013. Organised by Jean Hailes, women join activities offline and online.

Highlights of Women’s Health Week 2021

In 2021, the Jean Hailes platform reached over 3.6 million people through social media efforts, over 128,000 women took part in 2,277 events, and 54,000 women signed up for the online campaign.

Women’s mental health was a significant focus during the week because of how the pandemic disproportionately affected women. As a result, 30% of the participants were encouraged to do a health check or screening.

Leading Health Issues Among Australian Women

In Australia, women experience different health issues than men. Some issues are specific to women, such as pregnancy and gynaecological problems. Others are shared by both genders but may affect women differently due to factors such as hormones and body composition. Community members, first aiders, family members, and emergency responders need to be aware of these conditions to provide appropriate support when required. Some of the common health conditions affecting Australian women are:

Women in Australia face unique health challenges: pregnancy, gynaecological issues, hormonal impacts.

Cardiovascular disease

The leading cause of death and hospitalisation among Australian women which is why immediate medical care is important. The most common type of cardiovascular disease is coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks. Other types of cardiovascular disease include:

  • stroke
  • heart failure
  • peripheral vascular disease

Cancer

It is another leading cause of death and illness among Australian women. The most common cancers affecting women are breast, colorectal, and endometrial.

Chronic respiratory disease (CRD)

It is considered a group of lung diseases that tend to be persistent and progress over time. They include conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Women are at higher risk for developing CRDs than men, which is thought to be due partly to hormones and other female-specific risk factors.

Mental health

Some Australian women may experience mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or eating disorders at higher rates than others. Additionally, certain lifestyle factors (such as stress or trauma) are possible causes that contribute to developing mental health disorders.

Osteoporosis

It is a condition that causes bones to become fragile. It is a particular concern for older women, as it can lead to an increased risk of fractures. Common causes include family history, lack of Calcium and vitamin D, medical history, lifestyle factors, and weight.

Obesity

A major problem in Australia, with around 61% of adults being overweight or obese. This is a significant health concern as obesity can lead to a range of other health problems, such as:

Diabetes

A chronic condition occurs when there is too much sugar in the blood. One in seven Australian women have diabetes.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a hormonal disorder that affects up to 10% of women of childbearing age. The condition can cause various symptoms, including irregular periods, excessive hair growth, and acne. In some cases, it can also lead to fertility problems. While there is no cure, treatment can help manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.

Arthritis

A condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints. It is a common health problem for Australian women, with around 3 million women affected by the condition.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

STIs are infections (gonorrhea or chlamydia) acquired through sexual contact. These can lead to severe health problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility.

Lower Left Pelvic Pain

Unfortunately, many females suffer from chronic pelvic pain in the area between the lower belly and above the legs. It is the pelvis (pelvic floor) that holds many pelvic organs (bowel and bladder) and reproductive organs(ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes). It is why it may impact the area around the vagina or rectum according to some experts. It is also associated with other types of pelvic pain such as bloating, trouble with bladder and bowel movements, muscle spasms, and painful sex. There are different causes of pelvic pain such as the following.

  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • UTI
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Appendicitis (inflammation of the intestine)
  • Bacteria in the urethra
  • Pelvic congestion syndrome
  • Ovarian cysts (fluid-filled sacs)
  • Internal organs around the pelvic cavity have adhesions or scar tissue
  • Hernia
  • Structural abnormality of the uterus, cervix, or vagina

It affects about one in every 5 women in Australia and may cause pain in the pelvic area for up to six months or more. Other symptoms may also show such as abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, back pain, constipation, and kidney stones. A GP will identify treatment options after careful examination and may suggest taking over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen to manage the pain. Usage of heating pads and physical therapy are also helpful. Healthcare professionals may also consider laparoscopy when symptoms are severe.

Period Pain

Period pain affects about 93% of senior high school students who go through menstruation in Australia. Chronic pain, menstrual cramps, or abdominal pain occur when the muscles of the uterus contract or tighten. It gives a feeling of heaviness in the pelvic area, lower back, lower abdomen, belly button, or stomach. Although painful periods are common, gynecologists recommend seeing your GP if it does not improve with medications and/or last longer than 2 days.

Endometriosis

It is present in 3 over 4 women which affects the reproductive system and often causes severe pain in the pelvic floor muscles. Pain occurs before and after a period, during and after sex, when you pass pee and poo, and during ovulation. Cells (like those in the uterus line) grow in other body parts and go through the same process in a menstrual cycle. But, since they do not have a means of escape, they build up. This later on leads to sharp pain, inflammation, or scarring.

A Week of Evidence-based Health Information

Educating women is the primary goal. Since the attendees are diverse, Jean Hailes has tailored age and culturally-appropriate health information, translating it into various languages and health literacy levels to better serve all women. Information is delivered through different channels in the form of:

  • feature articles
  • podcasts
  • animations
  • quizzes
  • fact sheets
  • Interviews
  • videos

Educating women is top priority. Tailored health info for diverse attendees, in multiple languages & literacy levels.

This year’s Women’s Health Week will be held from 5 to 11 September 2022. All women, workplaces, and communities are invited to get engaged by organising an event, disseminating health information, and urging women, girls, and individuals of all gender identities throughout Australia to prioritise their health.

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