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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

‘For the first time, the government is addressing the systemic bias against women in healthcare,’ says Minister Kearney

Health Industry Hub | March 14, 2024 |

Pharma News: Two out of three women encounter discrimination within the healthcare system. A survey conducted by the End Gender Bias initiative garnered responses from over 2,500 females revealing that demeaning interactions occurred when women were most vulnerable, such as during intimate examinations and childbirth.

The survey was conducted by the National Women’s Health Advisory Council, formed in late 2022 to address medical misogyny and chaired by Assistant Minister for Health, Ged Kearney.

“I’ve made tackling gender bias, ‘medical misogyny’, my mission. I established the National Women’s Health Council to provide strategic advice and recommendations on how to improve Australia’s health system to provide better, more targeted and effective healthcare for women and girls across the country,” Minister Kearney said.

She will launch the report at the council’s first National Women’s Health Summit today, which she said will mark a “turning point for women’s health in Australia”.

“For the first time, the Australian government is addressing the complex and systemic bias against women in healthcare,” Minister Kearney said.

Consumer Health Forum CEO, Dr Elizabeth Deveny, said the report clearly demonstrated the need to listen to the experiences of Australian women and to include them in healthcare policy decision making and program design.

“We are very concerned that so many Australian woman are still reporting that they are not being heard, taken seriously or believed when they see their health practitioners. Cleary more needs to be done in this area. 

“When consumers can advocate their needs in the health system, we know it results in better service design, delivery and update. We need women who have experienced gender bias involved in healthcare policy decision making and program design,” said Dr Deveny.  

Along with patients, healthcare professionals and peak stakeholder groups also shared their experiences, with more than 2,800 responses.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) is spearheading the organisation of the Women’s Health Summit 2024. The College referred to the survey findings which reveal a significant number of women reporting instances of bias within the healthcare system, with many citing the dismissal or downplaying of their pain.

“RANZCOG has a lengthy history of advocating for women’s health and are gratified that the issue of women’s pain is put into such stark relief by these survey results,” said College President Dr Gillian Gibson, “RANZCOG as a College has been particularly interested in this topic and is looking forward to engaging further through upcoming opportunities such as the Victorian Government’s Inquiry into Women’s Pain.”   

The report also found gender bias in the lack of evidence around health issues more commonly experienced by women, such as endometriosis to autoimmune conditions and chronic complex syndromes like chronic migraines, as well as situations where women present differently or have different experiences and outcomes to men, such as heart disease and neurodiverse conditions like ADHD.

Barriers to accessing healthcare restrict women’s choices. These barriers include long waiting times and affordability, with women’s health conditions often more expensive to manage and much of the management not funded by public healthcare, the report found.

The founding director of the George Institute for Global Health at the University of New South Wales, Professor Robyn Norton, also a member of the council, said “The survey really identifies gender bias does exist in the healthcare system within Australia. It really is a wake up call for what we’re doing in Australia to address women’s health.”

The summit will bring together experts, policymakers, community advocates and women with lived experience to discuss how Australia can fundamentally transform the health system to improve access to healthcare, services and outcomes for women.

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