Zali Steggall MP speaks on Women's Health

7 March 2023



I rise to speak about women's health in this constituency statement. In advance of International Women's Day tomorrow, I'd like to use this opportunity to really talk about it. After all, women are 51 per cent of the population. Despite tremendous strides in health care, women's health continues to be an area that needs more attention. There are over 78,000 women in my electorate of Warringah. Many have health issues that can have profound effects on their lives, their families and their communities. That's why we need to prioritise women's health education, awareness and research.

Last week I visited Women's Health Road medical practice, in Frenchs Forest, to understand the work of Dr Talat Uppal in offering medical care for women and promoting public health for women. It was incredibly inspiring to visit that practice because it was a comprehensive, holistic approach to all aspects of women's health. It is, I think, a model that should be inspired and replicated.

Increasing awareness about women's health issues is crucial because it can help reduce the stigma and the discrimination that many women face. For example, misogyny in health care leads to women's pain often being dismissed or trivialised. Women are more likely than men to be prescribed pain medication but less likely to receive appropriate pain management. The stereotyping that occurs has often led to a culture of disbelief and invalidation, which can lead to delayed or inadequate treatment for women's health issues.

Women's health issues such as menstruation and menopause are often taboo subjects. It can make women reluctant to seek help and information. But by raising awareness about these issues we can reduce stigma and increase access to health care for all women. Menopause will impact all women at some stage in their age. It is mostly between the ages of 45 and 65 that the perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause period will occur. It often impacts women at the peak of their careers, and it is misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment that too often results in adverse impacts on women's careers and contributes to the unequal economic outcomes that women suffer in our society.

Every woman is affected by menopause in some way. Symptoms vary from hot flushes, night sweats, problems sleeping, pain in joints, tiredness, anxiety, mood changes and others. Historically, medical research has focused primarily on men. It was not until the mid-1980s, in fact, that women were included in medical trials; hence many health treatments have been designed with male bodies in mind, not acknowledging the impact on women's bodies. We need to raise and do better.

Tomorrow, on International Women's Day, the theme is 'Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future'—and, I would say, a focus on women's health.