Women's Health Strategy
It has just been announced that Professor Dame Lesley Regan has been appointed as the first ever Women’s Health Ambassador for England. I listened to her interview on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour with Anita Rani this morning and am hopeful that positive change and improvement will follow regarding Women’s Health here in the U.K.
Professor Dame Lesley Regan ended her interview by saying:
"We’ve got the potential to really change things, if we all collaborate. And as I often say, you can travel so much farther and faster if you stop worrying about who’s getting the credit along the way.”
I couldn't agree more, we all need to collaborate more together if we are going to shift things soonest. It's only been 7 years since I became a mother myself and yet it really seems like things have got worse, not better, in this short time. And I have been hearing the same stories from hundreds of women I have spoken with over this time, both personally and then with bump & glide over the past four years.
With bump & glide, I was one of over 100,000 people and businesses that contributed to the 'Women's Health Strategy 2021: Call for evidence' and have put the key points below from my submission, if you'd like to read more on what I believe requires urgent and additional focus in the Women's Health space from the government and healthcare professionals:
This isn’t a ‘women’s issue’ it’s a ‘society issue’. With women making up 51% of the population, the health issues and concerns they face should be better addressed so that they aren’t having to suffer in silence or made to feel like they’re the ones with the problem when it’s the quantity and quality of the support they receive which is currently the problem.
Every single woman I have spoken to, has said how the support they received could have been better. We should be addressing these things as they arise, instead of picking up the pieces once it’s often too late.
However, this is an area which doesn’t solely require a financial investment. It requires a support structure providing women and healthcare professionals with the tools and information they need in order to make informed, evidence-based decisions every step of the way, whether for their mental, emotional or physical health.
This isn’t solely a ‘women’s issue’. The way women are supported impacts the rest of society and the people they care for, including children. Women, as stated in the ‘Call for Evidence’ document, continue to take on disproportionate responsibility for childcare and caring for the elderly or disabled, which can further impact both their health and their workforce participation. The IPSOS Mori and The Royal Foundation report stated that “There is strong evidence linking parental mental health and the long term development of children.”
Nowadays, no thanks to social media and the pressures of ‘having it all’ and ‘bouncing back’ women have false expectations of what parenthood and work looks like, of what parenthood ‘should’ feel like. It’s finding that balance between reality and expectation which is so difficult - but not impossible - to obtain.
Employers aren’t addressing the crucial time between being pregnant, going on maternity leave and returning to the workplace. This is the time when women need much more targeted individual support at a time when they often lose their confidence, their self-esteem takes a hit, they feel lonely, isolated, abandoned, disengaged, lost, they can experience a feeling of disconnect.
While these women are not ‘soaring’, they’re not completely sinking either so are left to muddle through as best they can, which just isn’t good enough when they’re then expected to jump at all the career opportunities laid out in front of them in order to help close the gender pay gap. These are the women who are falling through the cracks and nobody is catching them once they’ve fallen.
Mothers aren’t thriving today. And whilst there isn’t a magic wand to fix this overnight, there most certainly is more the government and we, as a society, can do if we are to give women the chance to continue to thrive during each life stage whether it’s adolescence, matrescence, perimenopause, menopause and everything else along the way.
It’s no secret that women aren’t receiving the support they need today, hence the need for the review and development of The Women’s Health Strategy. While career opportunities, flexible working options and shared parental leave options are now increasingly commonplace within organisations, women are still not receiving the right support at this time of life, and identity, transition.
Irrespective of a woman’s beliefs, culture, religion, nationality, financial and social status, she needs and deserves this level of support in order to keep growing and thriving inside and outside of the workplace.
Employers aren’t currently offering the most effective support as they often don’t know what this support looks like. With innovative initiatives like bump & glide, employees and employers alike benefit from the type of support required during what everyone will agree is a hugely challenging and often daunting time for all concerned.
As Desmond Tutu said in a quote I read last week: “We need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”