Dr Nighat Arif
NHS/Private GP with a specialist interest in Women’s Health, Family Planning and Menopause Care
The state of women’s health in the UK has dominated discussions recently, depicting the plight that many women face in accessing care and receiving attention to pressing health concerns.
Women’s health in the UK is in decline, while at the same time, health inequalities are widening. This is the conclusion from a recent panel event I joined, appropriately entitled ‘Putting women at the centre of healthcare design and delivery.’
The panel discussion, backed by striking data from the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, revealed that the overall score in the UK for women’s health had dropped three points from the previous year. While this indicates a bleak picture for the UK — this data provides a unique opportunity to start looking more closely at the areas of women’s health where improvements need to be prioritised.
As a GP, I see acutely the needs and the barriers that women face in accessing routine care and even life-saving preventative health measures, such as cervical and breast cancer screenings, that can cause unnecessary delays to diagnosis and treatment.
Often, it’s women from Black and Asian communities who can face the biggest issues in accessing care. It was therefore not surprising to learn that women from ethnic minorities reported lower attendance for essential health screenings such as sexual health or cancer screening compared with White women.
Often, it’s women from Black and Asian communities who can face the biggest issues in accessing care.
Women’s health is complex. The solutions to drive improvements in women’s health need not be complex. There is so much that can be done.
Investment in public health campaigns to empower women with information and to seek help; making access to preventative services, such as diagnostics and screening, a public health priority; considering the specific health system barriers and challenges; and paying particular attention to the links of social marginalisation are all critical to improving women’s health.
The Women’s Health Strategy last year was a pivotal moment to put women’s health in the spotlight. Now, we must ensure there is sufficient capacity and resources in place to improve women’s health.
This is a unique opportunity to do better and see the UK start to climb the Global Women’s Health Index by enhancing communication and coordination between the medical field, patients and the Government to promote active preventative care and emotional wellbeing for women — and finally, inspire change.