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Victorian Women Are Sick Of Small Change: Underinvestment In Women’s Health Increases Illness And Depression

Health & wellbeing

Mar 1, 2022

Today CEOs of Victoria’s 12 women’s health services, along with Rainbow Health Australia, are calling for an immediate uplift in investment to secure the health and wellbeing of Victorian women, following the release of alarming data which shows Victorian women have gotten sicker, more anxious and depressed since the commencement of the pandemic.

Representing the interests of 3 million women across every region of Victoria, CEOs are coming together to address the deterioration of gender-equal health outcomes including: 

  • The continued erosion of Victorian Women’s mental health, which has seen a drastic increase in the diagnosis of depression and anxiety in women, up to 38.2% from 29.0% five years ago.

“We are concerned that close to a third of Victorian women – 27% – are reporting high or very high psychological distress and that self-harm hospitalisations are double the rate of Victorian men,” said Dianne Hill, CEO of Women’s Health Victoria.

  • The worsening of women’s fitness, body mass index and heart disease

“Less than half of Victorian women are getting the recommended level of physical activity and daily exercise, with self-reported body mass index (BMI) climbing during the pandemic and a 34% increase in the diagnosis of heart disease in Victorian women,” said Kit McMahon CEO of Women’s Health in the South East.

  • Growing cancer cases and less access to cancer treatment

In 2020, due to the pandemic, there were

  • 8% less cancer diagnostic procedures,
  • 16% lower breast cancer procedure and
  • 13% decrease in gynaecological cancer procedures.

“Women are at significant risk of illness and death due to preventable cancer treatment being postponed, delayed or cancelled during the pandemic. We need education and campaigns to encourage women back to health prevention and seeking the support they need” said Amanda Kelly, CEO of Women’s Health Goulburn North East.

Victorian women’s health is deteriorating because not enough money is spent on preventing illness and disease, with a gender bias in investment and priority.

“Victorian women are sick of small change. Women’s Health Services were funded $4.35 per woman when we started, now it’s down to $2.05 per woman. This is not enough to beat the crisis we’re seeing in women’s health in Victoria. This spare change funding is making women sicker,” said Tricia Currie, Chair, Women’s Health Services Council.

“Before the pandemic, women’s health was under significant strain, now it is so much worse. It is essential that we have an adequately funded women’s health services sector to be able to respond to the crisis in women’s health. And we need new and boosted investments in LGBTIQ, people, women with disabilities, Aboriginal women and migrant and refugee women whose health is disproportionately affected by inequality,” said  Ms Currie.

Women’s Health Services have today released a joint statement calling for the Victorian Government to act NOW in addressing the crisis of Victorian women’s health. They are calling for a per woman increase of $5.75 to fund urgent health prevention and promotion programs and for first time, dedicated investments for women with disabilities, Indigenous women and LGBTIQ women and trans and gender diverse people, as well as a boost to migrant and refugee women. Read the joint statement here [Password: Crisis] with quotes from all women’s health services.

The Women’s Health Services Council has not yet met with Hon Martin Foley Minister for Health or the Hon James Merlino Deputy Premier and Minister for Mental Health. The Council is continuing to seek their commitment to increasing funding for women’s health services across the state to address the significant impact of COVID-19 on women’s health and wellbeing.

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