Why women's voices are key to shaping new health strategy - Laura Collins, YEP Editor

For too long there have been deep-rooted gender divides in society.

Be that through the ever-widening pay gap or something as seemingly simple as a woman’s health outcomes.

But today the voices of more than 80,000 women are ringing loud and clear.

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Ultimately they want to see a fundamental change to the way that the women’s health agenda is shaped.

They have made their voices heard as part of a new Government strategy to put a focus on women’s health.

For too long painful periods have been dismissed as par for the course of being a woman.

It is one of those topics that is simply swept under the carpet and dismissed as being just a “woman’s issue”.

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It isn’t the easiest thing to talk about despite being what is seemingly one of the most natural biological concepts.

For so many it is still seen as a taboo, a dirty word or referred to as a euphemism.

I know all too well from personal experience after being diagnosed with endometriosis – a painful womb condition that sees tissue often found in the uterus lining other parts of your body.

At its best it is manageable but at its worst it is the ravaging monster in the room strangling your insides.

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Sadly there is no cure for endometrosis and its impact differs greatly on each woman affected.

And over the years I’ve spoken to so many women, who suffer from the same condition, who were dismissed by health professionals.

The average time for those to receive a diagnosis being seven to eight years, and with 40 per cent of women needing 10 or more GP appointments before being referred to a specialist

I was one of the lucky ones to have a very sympathetic doctor – plus I wouldn’t take no for an answer.

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But so many women are suffering in silence. And if there’s one thing that this year of lockdown has taught us is that the silence can be palpable.

This week is going to see a myriad of ministers rolled out across the country to encourage women to have their say ahead of the June 13 deadline.

It’s all well and good taking the roadshow out to speak to women but fundamentally there has to be real and tangible change.

The voices of these women must be heard loud and clear.

And it shouldn’t stop there.

It is also about ensuring that wide-ranging conversations continue beyond this consultation.

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It has to be about shaping and improving the information available to help raise awareness of women’s health conditions – not only among clinicians but also beyond, into the workplace and at home.

Ultimately Government chiefs need to make sure this isn’t just another talking shop.

This strategy really needs to look at tackling the health gender divide one step at a time before it runs a risk of growing ever wider.

Nobody’s wife, daughter, mother or sister should have to suffer in silence when it comes to hidden health conditions. Their voices deserve to be heard.