There's never been a more important time to support women's health. That is why we're hugely passionate about getting behind Women's Health Week, a week-long event, which kicks off today until 11th September 2020. To find out more, we spoke with Brenda Jones, campaign manager for Women's Health Week, who has seen it grow from humble beginnings to Australia's biggest week dedicated to the health of wellbeing of women and girls.
What is Women’s Health Week and how did it get started?
When Women’s Health Week started in 2013 when there was no other campaign like it in Australia. Founded by national not-for-profit women’s health organisation Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, the campaign set out to encourage women, communities and organisations to openly share and talk about women’s health – even the tricky bits. With our tagline ‘Women’s health. Powerful stuff’, we encourage all women to unlock their own powers for good health and to use the week to learn and take positive steps to be the healthiest they can be.
Who was Jean Hailes and how did she improve women’s health?
In 1971, Dr Jean Hailes established the first women’s health clinic in Australia that was dedicated to midlife and menopause. Jean was an advocate at a time when advocacy in this field was unheard of. At the time Jean was practising medicine, and there was little interest in what doctors saw as ‘minor’ symptoms in middle-aged women. Symptoms were swept under the carpet, endured in silence from one generation to the next. Jean had the determination and guts to bring this topic, rarely spoken about – either by women themselves or doctors – out into the open. Jean also believed that if a woman was in good health, then her family, community and the society around her also benefitted.
What impacts are you seeing COVID-19 having on the health of women?
With health and screening services disrupted due to COVID-19, many women have had important health checks postponed, or have been reluctant to attend appointments during isolation. This year’s campaign has an important, and timely, theme – reminding women of the importance of their health and the need to reschedule those regular health checks that might have been missed. We also know that women tend to carry the bulk of the mental load. So now, with the added stress of juggling working from home or the financial worry of not working, home schooling and caring for elderly family members, the load has increased even further. That’s why it’s so important for women to check in in with their mental health and wellbeing and to reach out for help and support if needed.
In the area of menstrual health, what type of support do you offer?
We have a wide range of resources and support available for girls, women and health professionals, including fact sheets on periods and heavy menstrual bleeding. A ‘Yarning about periods’ video is available for indigenous women, and for school-aged girls there is a fantastic animation, booklet and a ‘Pain and symptom diary’. With two women’s health clinics, we also provide specialised clinical care either by telehealth or in person.
How is this year’s Women’s Health Week different due to COVID-19?
Women’s Health Week does look a bit different this year as we’ve had to make some changes, particularly with the different restrictions across the states and territories. Not surprisingly, there are fewer face-to-face events being held, but we’ve seen an increase in the number of online events. It’s fantastic to see how people have adapted to the challenges to still stay connected with their communities and to check in with their friends, family and colleagues.
What types of events are available?
Even with COVID-19, there are events being held right around Australia – both online and face-to-face. Fitness classes, meditation sessions, free health checks, virtual rides, film screenings, Facebook Q&As and information days. We’re also hosting a number of new events this year, including the ‘Take Steps for Women’s Health’ virtual challenge, a huge online fitness class with Sam Wood to kick off the week, as well as live streaming our signature event – the Women’s Health Week Comedy Gala.
What does the money raised go towards?
Funds raised during Women’s Health help us to help and reach more women and girls in more communities, especially those identified as priority groups. For example, $350 can help us provide our ‘My Period’ resources to 65 students in a rural high school and $300 can pay for us to get a health fact sheet translated into a language other than English.
How can people get involved?
It’s super easy. Sign up at www.womenshealthweek.com.au to receive 5 days of fantastic health information. If you’d like to find an event near you, check out our events page. Until 11th September 2020, you can also donate $2 to Women's Health Week via our online checkout when you order online.