Women’s health issues must be a priority: GPs

Professor Danielle Mazza, and Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney. (Supplied)

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

It follows the release of the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) guidelines for preventive activities in general practice.

Known as ‘the Red Book’, the guidelines were first published in 1989 and supports preventive activities in general practice.

The latest edition strongly focuses on women’s health issues, including new content on pregnancy, conception, 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 passionate about. There are so many areas where we can and should do better.

“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.”

Red Book executive committee chair Danielle Mazza said the latest edition contained key guidance on women’s health issues.

“We want all pregnant women to have their first antenatal visit within the first 10 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 per cent 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 room for improvement,” Professor Mazza said.

“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.”