AUSTRALIA ranks first in the world for women’s education, but 70th for women’s economic security and opportunity. While there have always been female-specific physical and mental health burdens, growing financial inequality and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated these inequalities.
Our National Women’s Health and Wellbeing Dashboard launched on Monday 5th December 2022 highlighted the decline in reported health and wellbeing over the past decade for Australian women. This report confirms that progress is either non-existent or too slow, with more than a century needed to close the gender gaps.
This dashboard, based on the Nationally Representative Survey of Household, Income and Labor Dynamics Australia (HILDA) and the National Health Survey collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, highlights the main health and well-being indicators where women perform worse than men.
Australian women are poorer than men
These range from a shocking gap in full-time employment (nearly 50% of men are employed full-time compared to only 30% of women), to underemployment and unemployment, and exclusion from the population. active due to parental responsibilities. Women have disproportionately lower incomes, fewer pensions and a higher likelihood of income poverty than men, even in a high-income country like Australia.
Australian women are less healthy than men
Women’s health has declined over the past 20 years according to self-reported health indicators covering physical and mental health. Women also report poorer health in almost all areas than men. There have been population-level shifts in rates of psychological distress, with older women in their 50s and 60s moving from least likely to report psychological distress to second most likely, in just two decades.
This creates a vicious circle of entrenched poverty and poor health, disproportionately affecting Australian women. Low income and unemployment are two of the main determinants of poor health. Poor physical and mental health in turn reduces the ability to participate in the labor force, decreases income and reduces wealth, limiting access to health care due to affordability issues (here and here).
Equality is an urgent priority for Australia
Equitable community health and well-being is a matter of social justice and is also essential to social and economic growth. Having good health, meaningful employment and a decent level of income and wealth enables individuals to fully participate and contribute to society. Our economy relies on healthy, skilled people participating in the workforce and in our society. Poor health, low income and absence from the labor force have a huge cost, which is a major obstacle to future prosperity.
But that shouldn’t be the status quo.
It is essential to remove the structural barriers that prevent equality. Tackling simultaneous inequalities in health, employment and economic resources is a complex undertaking and cannot be done in a vacuum. Women’s health and wellbeing needs a gendered and preventative public health perspective. This should encompass and extend beyond sexual and reproductive health, and be addressed through a women-centred, evidence-based systems approach – focused on achieving real change for women. women, through the implementation of evidence, monitoring and accountability.
We must act now
For too long, Australia has failed to focus on structural gender inequality and recognize the health impacts this has. Emerging government policies are encouraging in their focus on women’s economic security, including childcare, closing the gender pay gap and gender equity At work.
However, never before has it been more important to ensure that Australia is focused on financial and health equity.
The Monash Center for Health Research and Implementation, Monash University and Monash Health have worked with partners to create an institute dedicated to women’s public health, well-being and equity, led by women, working with women, empowering women throughout their lives, generating and implementing evidence-based strategies to improve health outcomes, linked to broader social determinants of health.
The goals of the proposed Institute for Women’s Public Health, Wellbeing and Equity are to better serve Australian communities through increased partnership, particularly with our community, through coded research. It also calls for greater implementation of evidence of impact with a strong focus on prevention and improving healthcare and educating healthcare professionals and empowering women as health care consumers and funders. This is particularly important in remote parts of Australia and in underserved communities where issues of mental health, obesity, sexual and reproductive health, chronic disease, preventative health and aging are often overlooked when it comes to it is about the specific needs of women and children.
It will be important that strategies take a life-course approach, consider socioeconomic determinants alongside health, and transcend silos and parameters of research, health care, and policy. A learning system approach is needed to ensure that evidence from stakeholders, including women, evidence from research, evidence from policy and practice, and evidence from effective implementation are incorporated (here and here). These integrated approaches are essential to providing lasting and scalable solutions and impact, ensuring that women and underserved populations are at the forefront of evidence-based improvements in policy, public health and healthcare. health.
Monash’s Women’s Health and Wellbeing Dashboard will be produced annually to assess changes in women’s health and wellbeing.
Associate Professor Emily Callander is a health economist and value-based care researcher specializing in maternal and female health. She is affiliated with Monash Data Futures Institute Health Systems Services and Policy.
Dr. Joanne Enticott is Principal Investigator and leads Big Data and Learning Health System Research, and Mental Health Epidemiology Research at the Monash Center for Health Research and Implementation.
Professor Helena Teede is Director of the Monash Center for Health Research Implementation, Professor at Women’s Health Monash University, Endocrinologist at Monash Health and Executive Director of the Monash Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre.
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