GPs demand greater action on women’s health

By Our Reporter
Representative image // Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

GPs are calling for greater action to better address women’s health issue.

This has been pointed out by the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP), which has released the 10th edition of its Guidelines for Preventive Activities in General Practice, commonly known as the “Red Book.”

First published in 1989, the Red Book supports preventive activities in general practice and this latest edition places a strong emphasis on women’s health issues, introducing new content on pregnancy, interconception, perinatal mental health, post-menopause care, and more.

RACGP President Dr. Nicole Higgins welcomed the new guidelines and urged for immediate action to address health inequalities faced by women and girls in Australia.

“Australia has made significant strides in women’s health, but we still have a long way to go,” said Dr. Higgins. “As a special adviser to the Albanese Government’s National Women’s Health Advisory Council and a GP in Mackay, I am passionate about addressing these inequalities. For instance, young girls with ADHD symptoms often go undiagnosed and untreated compared to boys their age. Many women still suffer severe effects from endometriosis without receiving proper care. Change must happen now; too many girls and women are missing out.”

Dr Higgins also highlighted the need for fair treatment of female GPs. “Female GPs are more likely to conduct longer consults covering complex issues like post-natal depression, domestic violence, and childhood behavioral problems. The inequity of Medicare rebates penalizes these GPs, and this is something I will continue fighting to change,” she said.

Professor Danielle Mazza AM, Chair of the Red Book’s Executive Committee, emphasized the importance of the new edition’s focus on women’s health.

“All GPs can benefit from our Red Book’s guidance on key women’s health issues,” said Professor Mazza. “We want all pregnant women to have their first antenatal visit within the first ten weeks of pregnancy, as early and regular antenatal care is associated with better maternal health and positive outcomes for the child. Unfortunately, over 20% of women don’t access antenatal care in their first trimester, especially those who are younger than 20, smoke during pregnancy, use illicit substances, or live remotely.”

The Red Book also provides guidance for post-menopausal care. “Post-menopause can bring many changes in physiology and mental health. Our guideline highlights this period as an opportunity for a routine health assessment, education, and primary prevention regarding general health and wellbeing, including cardiovascular, bone, and mental health,” said Professor Mazza.

The development of the Red Book was supported by the National Heart Foundation of Australia, the Australian Medical Research Future Fund, the NHMRC Ideas Grants, and the Victorian Government of Australia’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program.

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