Empowering women to make informed health decisions

By Jo Hartley

4 minutes

08 February 2021

Friends laughing

International Women's Day this year focuses on 'Choose to Challenge'. The campaign aims to bring change by encouraging people to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality.

The hope is that, collectively, we can help create an inclusive and fair world that empowers all women.

When it comes to health and wellbeing, it is important for everyone to feel empowered to look after their health proactively. For women in particular, there could be several factors that can contribute to them not making their health a priority.

Sometimes fear and misunderstanding around health issues pose as barriers, and sometimes women may not know where to go for safe advice or what information to trust.

No matter the reason, it's time to make a change.

In line with International Women's Day, we 'choose to challenge' these potential barriers and offer some advice to help empower women to make informed decisions about their health.

Finding reliable information

With 24/7 access to health information, it's easy to self-diagnose all manner of ails. But there are plenty of websites that don't offer the most reliable or helpful information.

An overload of information can make it hard to separate fact from fiction. It can also be hard to determine the true qualifications or experience of some 'experts'.

So, where's the best place to look?

When researching health, it's best to seek out reputable and credible sources. Government funded sites such as healthdirect have a wealth of current information and advice, as well as links to additional, relevant health resources. Industry peak bodies, professional health associations and research institutions are also typically reliable resources.

If the health information is written within a blog or an article on a site, check out the author's qualifications. Are they qualified in the field in which they are discussing? Is it something that they specialise in?

For example, dietary advice, when written by an accredited practising dietitian or qualified nutritionist, is more likely to contain evidence-based information than if written by someone without a background in nutrition.

Getting the most out of an appointment

Seeing a health professional can sometimes feel intimidating for a variety of reasons. You may feel embarrassed, fearful, or like you're being silly.

One way to boost your confidence before an appointment is to know what to expect. Searching credible online sources for advice can help alleviate any fears you may have and help you prepare to get the most out of your appointment.

So, what does that involve?

Prepare a list of questions and take in any medication or supplement information. Be open and honest about you and your family's medical history, and be prepared to discuss smoking history, alcohol consumption, and past operations.

When you don't understand or are unsure of something, ask for clarification. Alternatively, ask for some educational resources that you can read in your own time.

If you want to discuss an issue further with another healthcare provider, consider seeking a second opinion.

Understanding the costs associated with healthcare is important too and can help minimise 'bill shock'. Where possible, ask for an estimate of costs to work out if you're entitled to any rebates from your health fund or Medicare, or if any of the services are bulk billed.

Aim to be proactive with your health

A healthy lifestyle is key to promoting good health and wellbeing and serves as a preventative for certain diseases. Getting enough physical activity a balanced diet maintaining a healthy weight and getting quality sleep are all important.

Also, depending on your age and stage of life, there are other things you can do to look after your health.

For example, it's recommended that women aged between 50 and 74 have a mammogram every two years to screen for breast cancer. At the same age, it's recommended that women undertake a bowel screening test. This can be done in the privacy of your own home, and kits are sent out by the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Cervical screening tests to detect and protect against cervical cancer should be done every five years, and this is recommended for women aged 25 to 74.

Depending on your age and potential risk factors, some other regular tests that might be of benefit could include cholesterol and lipid tests, blood pressure measurements, waist circumference measurement, and blood glucose test can be done to help monitor the risk of developing heart disease and/or diabetes.

Together we can 'choose to challenge' the things holding women back from taking care of themselves and instead empower them to make informed decisions about their health.

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