Development of a new National Women’s Health Policy Consultation Discussion Paper 2009

Introduction by the Minister for Health and Ageing

Page last updated: 20 April 2009

The health of Australian women is important. Women take on a myriad of responsibilities, as mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, wives and partners. Many combine paid work and raising families in an increasingly busy society. Often it is the women in households who have the main responsibility for looking after the health of other family members.

Despite many improvements in women’s health – Australian women’s life expectancy is amongst the highest in the world – not all women in Australia have benefited equally. We need a new approach to improving the health and wellbeing of all women in Australia, especially those with the highest risk of poor health. By improving the health of all Australian women we will improve the health of the whole community.

This is why the Government made an election commitment to developing a new National Australian Women’s Health Policy. It has been twenty years since the first National Women’s Health Policy: Advancing Women’s Health in Australia was released and it’s time to revisit the issues and concerns Australian women have about their health.

The purpose of the new National Women’s Health Policy is to improve the health and wellbeing of all women in Australia, especially those with the highest risk of poor health; encourage the health system to be more responsive to the needs of women; actively promote the participation of women in health decision making and management; and to promote health equity among women.

In line with international developments and the Government’s social inclusion agenda, the new National Women’s Health Policy will emphasise prevention, health inequalities and the social determinants of those inequalities. The Policy will address the needs of all women, including those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent; immigrant and refugee women; women from disadvantaged backgrounds, including women experiencing homelessness; women from rural and remote areas; and women with a disability, including mental illness.

The consultation process for the new Women’s Health Policy is underway. On 16 December 2008 I released the paper: Developing a Women’s Health Policy for Australia: setting the scene. This paper identified areas of concern for women’s health issues across the life course, the principles which might underpin the policy and how the community might be involved.

This paper takes a further step forward by setting out some of the health issues for Australian women that a policy might address. During 2008 there will be consultations with consumers, the community, health service providers, key women’s groups and state and territory governments in all states and territories. Women’s health organisations and women themselves may like to make submissions on what they think the policy should encompass.

More information on the development of Australia’s new National Women’s Health Policy can be found on www.health.gov.au/womenshealthpolicy.

Nicola Roxon
Minister for Health and Ageing