"Women's health is often seen as being about the health of women’s reproductive ‘bits’ – namely wombs, breasts and vaginas! Women’s health nurses are employed to provide breast and cervical screening services. Women’s hospitals provide specialist gynaecological and childbirth services. ‘Well’ women’s health services are promoted as providing a full range of services when in many cases they are narrow and focus on women’s reproductive health. Health status data though show us that it is not only reproductive issues that cause women’s ill-health.2
Women’s health then is about all
In order to understand what women’s health is, and why we do it, it’s also necessary to understand the history of the Australian women’s health movement over the past 25 years. Feminist critiques over the past quarter of a century have focussed on women’s inability to participate equally in the health care system because of a power imbalance created by men’s control of the system. Doctor-patient interactions were characterised by domination and subordination.5 Women’s experience within the health care system reflected their place in society, with men’s experience being viewed as the norm and women’s experience as being deviant from this.6 Furthermore, health has been understood to be the same as medicine and science (with a focus on illness, not wellness), which have a long male-dominated history of looking at the world based on the experiences of men in their own interests, never by or for women themselves.7 There is also a need to understand that women's health arose from community development, preceding the consumer movement, and has been based on women’s rights to access information and services which they themselves see as appropriate. It arose from within the feminist movement and has been political from the beginning."
Excerpt from: ‘Why Women’s Health?' by Kim Johnstone, Sarah Brown and Marilyn Beaumont of Women's Health Victoria, 2001
Reproduced with permission. For the full document including relevant references visit Women's Health Victoria: