National Women's Health Summit a turning point for addressing discrimination in health system

Today, the Australian Government has convened the 2024 National Women’s Health Summit.

The Hon Ged Kearney MP
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Today, the Australian Government has convened the 2024 National Women’s Health Summit. Bringing together experts, policymakers, community advocates, and women with lived experience, the Summit will discuss how Australia can fundamentally transform the health system to improve access to health care, services and outcomes for women following the landmark #EndGenderBias survey.

Growing evidence has shown that systemic issues in healthcare delivery and medical research mean women often suffer poorer health outcomes. Women disproportionately experience delayed diagnosis, overprescribing, and a failure to properly investigate symptoms.
 
The Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney, will launch the report of the #EndGenderBias survey at the Summit at Australian Parliament House in Canberra. More than 2,800 responses were received to the Australian-first survey, in which women, health care professionals and peak stakeholder groups shared their experiences or understanding of gender bias in the health system.
 
Two thirds of women reported they experienced health care related gender bias or discrimination themselves and almost 80% of caregivers – mostly mums advocating on behalf of their kids – reported similar experiences.
 
Consistent themes included women feeling dismissed and disbelieved; being stereotyped as ‘hysterical’ and a ‘drama queen’; and women’s symptoms being readily attributed to other causes such as menstruation, lifestyle factors or even ‘faking it’. This was particularly evident where women’s symptoms related to pain.
 
Other key statistics, included:

  • Sexual and reproductive health and chronic pain were the top areas where women experienced gender-bias;
  • More than 70% of women experienced bias in the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions;
  • More than 70% of women reported they experienced bias in GP visits, and almost half reported bias in hospital settings;
  • 70% of experts felt women were ‘only slightly or not at all’ believed about a health issue;
  • A lack of diversity in all aspects of research was a key theme viewed as leading to gender bias in the evidence available to inform health care and medical innovation.

Women from diverse background were more likely to experience bias. More than 80% of women surveyed with a disability and more than 80% of LGBTIQA+ survey respondents reported discrimination and bias compared to around 67% of other women.
 
The Summit has been funded by the Australian Government and organised by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
 
More information, including virtual registration, is available via: https://womenshealthsummit.com.au/   
 
The report of the #EndGenderBias survey is available via: https://www.health.gov.au/womens-health-advisory-council
 
Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care
Ged Kearney MP:
 
“For the first time, the Australian Government is addressing the complex and systemic bias against women in health care.
 
“Every woman has a story of gender bias or discrimination in the health system. This summit is part of our work to change the health system to better meet the needs of Australian women.
 
“The results of the #EndGenderBias survey whilst shocking are not surprising.
 
“I’ve convened the National Women’s Health Summit to bring the best and brightest together to work out how we can improve health care and services for women.
 
“This is the turning point for women’s health in Australia and I’m glad we’ve finally arrived here.”

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