UK government calls for public input into Women’s Health Strategy

The UK government has put out a call for public input into a new Women’s Health Strategy for England.

Described as an ‘ambitious and positive new agenda on women’s health’ with ‘women’s voices at the centre’, the government is collecting evidence to inform the strategy’s priorities, content and actions.

Women that live in the UK are being asked to complete a public survey on a wide range of health issues that impact only women – such as gynaecological conditions – or health issues that are more prevalent in women than in men. Written submissions from individuals and organisations that have expertise in women’s health are also being welcomed.

Acknowledging that ‘there is strong evidence of the need for greater focus on women’s health and to recognise and act on the inequalities’, the government’s new strategy is intended to cover women’s health from adolescence to older age.

The calls for evidence cover six core themes, including:

  • Placing women’s voices at the centre of their care – addressing taboos, embarrassment and stigma as barriers to seeking help and care, and understanding more about women’s experiences of health conversations with clinicians. 
  • Improving the quality and accessibility of information and education on women’s health – supporting life-long health and empowering decision making in areas such as treatment options, as well as understanding where improvements can be made in women’s health information and education.
  • Ensuring the health and care system understands and is responsive to women’s health and care needs across the life course – understanding changing health and care needs for women across the life stages and specific life events, and how these can impact future health, as well as learning more about preventative actions.
  • Maximising women’s health in the workplace – learning more about women’s experiences of health in the workplace, including about how female-specific health conditions can affect participation and productivity, as well as the impact of caring responsibilities on women’s own health care access and workforce participation. 
  • Ensuring research, evidence and data support improvements in women’s health – addressing the issue of under-representation of women in research, particularly for women from ethnic minorities or those who are older or of child-bearing age, have disabilities or who are LGBT+ women. The focus includes understanding the implication of this under-representation on the health and care received and ensuring the right data is available to improve health outcomes and experience, as well as finding out how research is used and identifying overlooked areas.
  • Understanding and responding to the impacts of COVID-19 on women’s health – discovering more about the impact on health, women’s health services and opportunities for action.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, said in a ministerial foreword: “For generations, women have lived with a health and care system that is mostly designed by men, for men. This has meant that not enough is known about conditions that only affect women, or about how conditions that affect both men and women impact women in different ways.

“This problem affects half of our population. It can lead to poorer advice and diagnosis and, as a result, worse outcomes. This ‘male by default’ problem of the past must be put right.

“Despite living longer than men, women spend a greater proportion of their lives in ill health and disability, and there are growing geographic inequalities in women’s life expectancy.”

“So,” he continued, “we’re bringing forward England’s first Women’s Health Strategy…we know that not all women have the same experiences, so we want to hear from as many women as possible from all ages and backgrounds about what you think works well and what we need to change.”

Nadine Dorris, Minister of State in the Department of Health and Social Care, wrote: “We know that damaging taboos and stigmas remain around many areas of women’s health, which can prevent women from starting conversations about their health or seeking support for a health issue. When women do speak about their health, all too often, they are not listened to. 

“We are launching this call for evidence to listen to women’s priorities. We are also extending this opportunity to organisations, researchers, academics and clinicians who can provide further expertise. Importantly, by directly calling on women, we are re-setting the way in which the government understands women’s health, with a renewed focus on listening to women’s voices.

“I encourage you to contribute to this call for evidence – by responding, you can make your voice heard and play a vital part in shaping England’s first Women’s Health Strategy.”

The survey is available to complete online, or as an easy-read version – while there is also guidance available for written submissions.