Nurses and midwives are being encouraged to put their own health and wellbeing first during 2018 Women’s Health Week, 3-7 September.
More than 60,000 women are expected to take part in over 1,500 events around the country in Jean Hailes for Women’s Health’s annual campaign held since 2013.
Already 25,000 women registered to receive free health-related content emailed to them each day during Women’s Health Week, 2018.
The week will coincide with an online national awareness campaign on endometriosis rolled out by Jean Hailes. It is part of the federal government’s national action plan on the chronic menstrual disorder that affects around 700,000 Australian women and girls.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt released the National Action Plan for Endometriosis last month. It outlines a new approach to improving awareness and understanding of endometriosis, speeding up diagnosis, and developing better diagnostic and treatment options.
“Patients have historically experienced poor clinical care, due to a low level of understanding of the condition, both amongst the public and the medical community.”
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Director Janet Michelmore is on the steering group which will oversee the implementation of the national plan over the next five years.
“This is great news for health professionals who are at the frontline of recognising and treating the condition, for women with endo, their families and their communities. This action plan is a step towards helping women with endometriosis lead a better quality of life.”
The federal government has committed a further $1.2 million taking total investment on endometriosis to $4.7 million. This includes $2.5 million for clinical trials to find effective treatments and a possible cure.
Endometriosis often causes debilitating pain and organ damage and can lead to mental health complications, social or economic stress and infertility.
NSW Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Lorna Scott said the government’s national action plan acknowledged women with endometriosis and gave credence to their experience.
“One of the biggest things with young girls is letting them know that it isn’t normal – that they do not have to go through the pain. It’s often something they put up with.
“Sometimes the young ones are put on contraception and report the pain is getting worse. This is often the biggest red flag to us [for endometriosis].”
The only way to diagnose endometriosis at present is through laparoscopic surgery.
Minister Hunt acknowledged that many Australian women had endured diagnostic delays of 7-12 years on average. Symptoms such as heavy or painful periods, fertility issues and chronic pain can be so broad that it may take years to diagnose.
“Waiting times to see a gynaecologist can be 12 months. That’s a 12-month wait for a diagnosis,” Ms Scott said.
Women’s health takes time, Ms Scott said. As a women’s health NP, she allows a one hour consultation for a first time visit.
“Women need time to talk about their experience in their life. Someone might come in to the service for cervical screening but it’s another problem they are really seeking advice or treatment for, whether that’s painful sex, menopause, PMS, domestic violence, or prior sexual assault.
“There are many issues that if they are brought up we don’t want women to be hurried through their appointment.”
Some of the challenges now were around opportunistic screening with advances in both screening and treatment. This included the recent changes to the national cervical screening program – to five yearly screening starting at 25 years.
“Often young girls who came in for cervical screening we would provide with sexual health education, such as chlamydia which is often not symptomatic. Similarly with the contraceptive pill, there are a range of LARCs [longer acting reversible contraceptives] which are now changed three to five yearly,” Ms Scott said.
Jean Hailes’ free endo resources include: a pre-diagnosis brochure for young women ‘My period – What’s normal?’; a post-diagnosis booklet ‘Understanding endometriosis’; and a tool for health professionals to assist in the assessment, investigation and management of the condition.
For more information on Women’s Health Week or to sign up, visit