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Medical Health Aged Care

GPs: Women’s health issues must be a priority

Royal Australian College of GPs 3 mins read

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

It comes following the release of the College’s Guidelines for preventive activities in general practice (10th edition). Known as “the Red Book” and first published in 1989, it supports preventive activities in general practice. The 10th edition has a strong focus on women’s health issues including new content concerning pregnancy, interconception, perinatal mental health, and post-menopause care.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins welcomed the release of the guidelines and called for action.

“On the women’s health front, Australia has come a long way, but we also have a long way to go,” she said.

“As a special adviser to the Albanese Government’s National Women’s Health Advisory Council and a GP, addressing health inequalities for women and girls in Australia is something I’m especially passionate about. There are so many areas where we can and should do better.

“Why is it, for example, that a young girl with ADHD symptoms is far more likely to suffer for years without diagnosis and care compared to her a boy her age? Too many women are still suffering severe effects from endometriosis and not being properly listened to let alone given the care they need. Change must happen now, too many girls and women are missing out.

“More must be done to give female GPs a fair go, too. As I’ve discussed with Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney, female GPs are more likely to conduct longer consults covering complex issues including post-natal depression and other mental health issues, domestic violence, and childhood behavioural problems. The inequity of Medicare rebates effectively penalising those GPs who take on a greater share of longer consults is something that I will continue fighting for.”

Chair of the Red Book’s Executive Committee, Professor Danielle Mazza AM, said the 10th edition contained key guidance on women’s health issues.

“All GPs can benefit from our Red Book guidance and recommendations on key women’s health issues,” she said.

“We want all pregnant women to have their first antenatal visit within the first ten weeks of pregnancy. Regular antenatal care that starts early in the pregnancy is associated with better maternal health and positive outcomes for the child. Unfortunately, just over 20% of women don’t access antenatal care in their first trimester, and mothers are more likely to fall into this category if they are younger than 20 years of age, smoke during pregnancy, use illicit substances, or live remotely. So, compared to most countries around the world we are doing well, but we still have a long way to go.

“Our Red Book contains useful guidance for GPs conducting this care, including screening for mental health concerns, smoking status and exposure to second-hand smoke, and clinical risk factors for pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous complication characterised by high blood pressure.

“Post-menopause, a period that begins 12 months after a woman’s final menstrual period, can lead to many changes in physiology and mental health. As our guideline states, the onset of menopause is an opportunity for a routine health assessment, education, and primary prevention in regard to general health and wellbeing, including cardiovascular, bone and mental health.”


About us:

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.

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