Lesbians are being encouraged to share their experiences of medical professionals, as the Federal Government drafts its first National Women’s Health policy in 20 years.
The Government’s initial discussion paper made no mention of same-sex attracted women, which makes it imperative for them to be involved in the consultation process, according to ACON’s women’s health officer, Siri May.
“We need to be mentioned — that’s the most important thing,” May told Sydney Star Observer.
“The National Women’s Health Policy aims to improve the health and wellbeing of all women in Australia, especially those at highest risk of poor health. They talk about social determinants of health across the consultation paper, like socio-economic background, cultural background, disability, age. For us, sexuality should be included as a social determinant of health.
“Out of that recognition we hope there will be greater focus on gathering more evidence around this particular population group, as well as tailoring prevention efforts, and ensuring there is a high level of competency in primary health care settings.”
The inclusion of women’s personal experiences with medical professionals in ACON’s submission, it is hoped, will strengthen the push for specific Government strategies and add to the knowledge base of lesbian health work.
“Even though we know lesbian and same-sex attracted women are less likely to be screened for cervical cancer and have mammograms, we don’t really know why,” May explained. “We can guess, but we don’t have evidence to tell us exactly why it is that same-sex attracted women have lower rates of screening and higher rates of dissatisfaction with service provision.
“We want to get a bit more context around that. We want to hear what’s going on in these health care settings for women. Are they having positive experiences? if they are, we want to hear about them so we can relay those experiences back as good examples.
“If they’re negative experiences, we want to profile them so we can do something or for us to try and hold the Government accountable. We want to get a bigger picture.”
ACON has set up an online space for women to submit their stories, which can be posted anonymously. There is a 500-word limit on submissions, which can be about personal interactions, experiences with mental health professionals or experiences of attending to your partner while she was in a health care setting.

info: To submit your story visit www.acon.org.au/women’s-health/news/herstory

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