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What is ‘women’s health’?

This definition has been take from the Australia Women's Health Network policy brief on "Why women’s health matters"

From childhood to old age, women, gender diverse and AFAB (assigned female at birth) people experience health, illness, and healthcare differently to men. These differences begin from birth and progress into gendered childhoods, gendered work lives, sexism and violence, sexual and reproductive health, economic insecurity, and the disproportionate demands of women including care giving and motherhood. Women have higher levels of chronic disease, poorer mental health linked to sexism, violence and chronically poor incomes. Women experience gender discrimination in healthcare which can result in delayed access to care, misdiagnosis, and neglect. Whilst they comprise half of Australia’s population, the burden of poor health is disproportionate.

Broadly, women’s health is about:

  • Health and wellbeing, chronic illness prevention and management including cancer screening,
  • Sexual and reproductive and health, including reproductive autonomy,
  • Health literacy and health education throughout the lifespan;
  • Mental health, social and emotional wellbeing and psychosocial support;
  • Safety from sexism, intersecting forms of discrimination, and the health impacts of these prejudices;
  • Safety from all forms of violence and of the drivers of gendered violence;
  • Gender inequity which impacts on women's lives, and their health, social and economic wellbeing

Conditions that affect more women and AFAB people's than men include many chronic diseases, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, stroke, osteoporosis, and mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Women also disproportionately bear the health impacts of all forms of violence and are more likely than men to develop disabilities and / or long-term health conditions as a direct result of violence. Many conditions like heart disease, HIV and multiple sclerosis often look different for women than they do in men and women’s longer lifespans result in higher rates of age-related disability and dementia.