IWD 2024: Improving women’s health

IWD 2024: Improving women’s health

Anja Hazebroek, Executive Director of Communications, Marketing and Media Relations, Humber and North Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership

This year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘Inspire Inclusion,’ resonates deeply with my role as the Women’s Health Champion for our ICB. I feel privileged to hold this position and am committed to fostering inclusion, particularly in healthcare decision-making for women and girls.

For me, Inspiring Inclusion is about empowering women to make informed health choices, which not only improves health outcomes but also promotes broader inclusion in education, society, the workplace, sports, arts, and culture. It’s about empowering women and girls to dream big and achieve everything they want in life.

Anja Hazebroek

Speaking to women and girls from a range of different backgrounds and communities, I’ve heard firsthand the challenges they face, from menstrual health issues disrupting education, to barriers in accessing healthcare due to childcare responsibilities, to menopausal symptoms impacting career ambitions to contraception not being easily accessible for teenage girls. The list goes on.

I have also had the pleasure of meeting many women in our integrated care system (both clinical and professional) and women’s support groups across our vibrant Voluntary and Community Sector who work tirelessly to improve this picture.

The Women’s Health Strategy for England, launched in 2022, outlines crucial improvements needed in healthcare systems to prioritise women’s voices and enhance health outcomes for women and girls.

Despite women living longer on average than men, they spend more of their lives in ill health and disability. There is not enough focus on women-specific issues such as menopause or miscarriage, and women are underrepresented in clinical trials.

Women make up 51% of the population, but historically the health and care system has been designed by men; 84% of women feel their voice isn’t listened to.

Here in Humber and North Yorkshire it’s a similar picture:

  • 51% of our population are women, with 14% in the age group likely to experience menopause and 24% aged 65 and over (compared to 21% of the male population).
  • Women live longer than men, but on average live longer in poor health (19.5 years for women compared to 16.1 years for men).
  • For women, the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived neighborhoods has widened.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of death and early mortality.
  • Around 25% of women are economically inactive compared to 18% of men.
  • Nearly 13% of girls and women live in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods.
  • Access to Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) rates have not yet returned to pre pandemic levels.
  • Abortion rates including under 25s repeat abortion rates are on an upward trend.
  • Smoking status at the time of delivery is higher than the national and Yorkshire and Humber average.
  • Hospital admissions due to hip fractures in women are more than double that of men in ages 65+.

In response, our ICB is moving at pace – working collectively – to develop a Women’s Health strategy and priorities to address these issues, guiding the creation of our Women Living Well Longer Programme. This initiative is crucial to inspire inclusion for women and girls across our region, ensuring their voices are heard and their health needs met.