Move to end medical ‘gaslighting’ of women

2 minute read

Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney will spearhead an advisory council aimed at fixing the gender health gap. 

Australian women have been swapping stories of delayed diagnoses, dismissal of pain and overprescribing for years.  

Now, the government claims that it is ready to listen.  

Federal MP Ged Kearney, a former nurse turned Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, will chair the National Women’s Health Advisory Council. 

Other councillors are yet to be announced, but RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins will act as a special advisor during her term in the role.  

“Let’s end the gaslighting and make sure that women and girls have tailored healthcare that reflects their experiences,” Dr Higgins said. 

While its key role will be guiding the government on the rollout of the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030, the council will also provide annual reports and be available to give policy advice at any time.  

The policy remit includes consideration of gender disparities in medical research and clinical trials, as well as assessing the accessibility and affordability of sexual and reproductive healthcare.  

In practice, this will mean examining the evidence base for diagnosis, treatment and management of health conditions where outcomes are known to differ by sex or gender and identifying differences in clinical guidelines, diagnostic tools and medical devices.  

“Every woman I talk to has a story or an experience – of their pain being dismissed, or not getting the help they sought,” Ms Kearney said. 

“We owe it to the women who’ve suffered … as a government, this is a frontier we need to push”. 

Dr Higgins said the RACGP welcomed the creation of the council, which had the potential to be a “game changer” for women’s health.  

“I completely agree with Ged Kearney when she says it is unacceptable that a young girl with ADHD symptoms suffers for years longer than a boy her age without diagnosis and treatment because girls are less likely to be diagnosed earlier,” Dr Higgins said.  

“Similarly, how in the year 2022 can we accept a woman with severe pelvic pain affecting her quality of life caused by endometriosis having her symptoms repeatedly dismissed or ignored?”  

The council will complement, not replace, existing initiatives at Commonwealth and state levels.  

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