Talking points - AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton - AMA Position Statement on Women's Health

5 Mar 2014
AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton's speaking notes from the release of the AMA Position Statement on Women's Health.

Talking Points
Launch of AMA Women’s Health Position Statement
Parliament House, Canberra
Wednesday 5 March 2014

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.

Welcome to the launch of the AMA Position Statement on Women’s Health.

The AMA is honoured to have the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, and the new Senator for the Northern Territory, Nova Peris, with us today to launch this Position Statement.

This is a very important statement today from the AMA – and we are making it at an important time.

This coming Saturday is International Women’s Day.

And another important milestone – 2014 marks 25 years since the launch of Australia’s first National Women’s Health Policy.

That policy was historic in many ways.  Australia was one of the first countries to adopt such a policy.

Many other countries soon followed Australia’s leadership on this vital issue for our modern society.

Since that time, we have made significant gains in women’s health – but there are still areas where we need to do more – much more.

All women have the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The AMA has always placed a high priority on women’s health, and this is reflected in the breadth and diversity of our Position Statement.

We examine biological, social and cultural factors, along with socioeconomic circumstances and other determinants of health, exposure to health risks, access to health information and health services, and health outcomes.

And we shine a light on contemporary and controversial issues in women’s health.

There is a focus on violence against women, including through domestic and family violence and sexual assault.

These are significant public health issues that have serious and long-lasting detrimental consequences for women’s health.

It is estimated that more than half of Australian women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.

The AMA wants all Australian governments to work together on a coordinated, effective, and appropriately resourced national approach to prevent violence against women.

We need a system that provides accessible health service pathways and support for women and their families who become victims of violence.

It is vital that the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children is implemented and adequately funded.

We are also today highlighting other areas of women’s health that are seriously under-addressed.

This includes improving the health outcomes for disadvantaged groups of women, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, rural women, single mothers, and women from refugee and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

We also highlight the unique health issues experienced by lesbian and bisexual women in the community.

The AMA recognises the important work of Australian governments over many years to raise the national importance of women’s health, including the National Women’s Health Policy.

There has been ground-breaking policy in recent decades, but much more needs to be done if we are to achieve high quality equitable health care that serves the diverse needs of Australian women.

Cardiovascular disease – including heart attack, stroke, and other heart and blood vessel diseases – is the leading cause of death in women.

For women under 34 years of age, suicide is the leading cause of death.

And, in general, women report more episodes of ill health, consult medical practitioners and other health professionals more frequently, and take medication more often than men.

Although women as a group have a higher life expectancy than men, they experience a higher burden of chronic disease and tend to live more years with a disability.

Because they tend to live longer than men, women represent a growing proportion of older people, and the corresponding growth in chronic disease and disability has implications for health policy planning and service demand.

With our Position Statement, we have attempted to provide an overview of the many challenges of women’s health.

We have looked at physical, mental, cultural, language, sexual, gender, and community and domestic aspects.

Our Position Statement is comprehensive, but I fear it only scratches the surface.

I urge all our governments to share our enthusiasm for Australia to show world leadership on women’s health issues.

I now call on Senator Cash, and then Senator Peris to say a few words, and then we will take questions.  Thank you.

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