Dear Dolly Doctor …

3 minute read

Women and girls’ healthcare, from womb to tomb.

This episode is a special insight into female health across the age spectrum.

We speak first with Associate Professor Melissa Kang, who was for 23 years the Australian teen girl’s health oracle: Dolly Doctor in Dolly magazine.

Professor Kang says teenagers want to know how to navigate the health system and that young women are keen to talk about sexual health, but need the GP to raise the topic first.

“Research has also told us that young women want GPs to bring up the difficult topics. They want GPs to introduce the topic of sexual health or sex or intimacy,” she tells the podcast.

Professor Kang says that creates a bit of a mismatch because GPs often feel that those topics are too personal and sensitive.

“They are waiting for patients to bring it up themselves, whereas young women are saying, ‘No, we want GPs to do it!’. So, as doctors, we do need to create that space,” Professor Kang said.

We also talk about whether young women’s health concerns have changed over the last few decades. Professor Kang says young women have more health knowledge these days but that some concerns are enduring.

“The stigmatisation of their bodies and their sexuality – I don’t think that has changed an awful lot over the decades that I’ve been working with young people as a doctor,” she said.

Dr Talat Uppal, our second guest, says even midlife women experience taboo and shame about their bodies and that their health concerns are often minimised. If a woman says she’s having pain, even from a point of view of ischaemic heart disease, they are more likely to be fobbed off by doctors than men.

“It never ceases to amaze me how much women put up with prior to seeking care. Sometimes they’ve sought care but they have not been proactively managed as well as we would hope,” Dr Uppal says.

A gynaecologist and obstetrician, Dr Uppal works at Women’s Health Road, a multidisciplinary team-based care clinic in Sydney. The team draws on a range of expertise including a GP, colorectal specialist, nurse practitioners and physiotherapists.

Women’s Health Road cares for women health across their lifespan; from teenage girls with menstrual problems right through to older women with prolapse.

“It genuinely gives me joy when I see the difference in quality of care that the woman has access to,” she says.

You can listen and subscribe to the show by searching for “The Medical Republic” in your favourite podcast player.

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