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Better access to healthcare for women key to population health, says specialist


By Isabel Shaw
28 November 2019

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Establishing good healthcare for women is key to providing good population health, the co-chair of the Women’s Health Task Force has said.

Speaking at The Kings Trust Annual conference yesterday (27 November), Professor Lesley Regan, who is also head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Imperial College, said that sorting out ‘fragmented’ women’s healthcare is the answer to establishing good population health.

According to Professor Regan, this includes giving women ‘easier access to services’, ‘focusing on prevention’, and also providing better education on their health at an earlier age.

‘Women influence the healthcare behaviours of others, and therefore, getting it right for women means we get it right for everyone else as well.

‘We can do much better for women and girls in this country, for less,’ she said.

‘A one-stop-shop for girls and women’

The current commissioning structures are making it harder for women to access general maintenance healthcare – healthcare required to continue being healthy or prevent future disorders, Professor Reagan said.

Women have to make numerous visits to a number of different medical professionals to receive this care, namely contraception, smear tests and HRT.

‘We need to provide a one stop shop for girls and women to access all these very simple procedures and products in a very comfortable, compassionate way,’ she said.

According to the Women’s Health Task Force, women currently make up 51% of the UK population and 44% of the workforce. They also play a very influential role in the nation’s health, for example providing informal care to older relatives and children.

Despite this, Professor Regan pointed out, ‘women’s health is becoming progressively more disadvantaged.’ This, she explained, is due in part to lack of ‘education’ and ‘access’ to healthcare.

‘It’s not rocket science’

Currently, 45% of pregnancies and one third of births in England are unplanned, Professor Reagan told delegates. This is, according to Professor Regan, because ’many women and girls don’t know how or can’t access contraception and advice.’

‘There’s loads of ways we can improve this,’ she said. ‘It’s not rocket science, it’s very straight forward. If we educate young girls and make sure they have access to information, they can make the right choices.’

‘We also should be looking at middle and reproductive years, and how to help women of that age live healthy lives. And also the post-productive years, as this is going to be the first generation of women who are going to live longer [during the menopause] than reproductively – and that’s a new phenomenon,’ she added.

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