Today, CEOs of Victoria’s 12 women’s health services, along with Rainbow Health Australia, are calling for an immediate uplift in investment to secure the health and wellbeing of Victorian women, following the release of alarming data which shows Victorian women have gotten sicker, more anxious and depressed since the commencement of the COVID19 pandemic.

Representing the interests of 3 million women across every region of Victoria, CEOs are coming together to address the deterioration of gender-equal health outcomes including:

  • The continued erosion of Victorian Women’s mental health, which has seen a drastic increase in the diagnosis of depression and anxiety in women, up to 38.2% from 29.0% five years ago.

“We are concerned that close to a third of Victorian women – 27% – are reporting high or very high psychological distress and that self-harm hospitalisations are double the rate of Victorian men,” said Dianne Hill, CEO of Women’s Health Victoria

  • The worsening of women’s fitness, body mass index and heart disease

“Less than half of Victorian women are getting the recommended level of physical activity and daily exercise, with self-reported body mass index (BMI) climbing during the pandemic and a 34% increase in the diagnosis of heart disease in Victorian women,” said Kit McMahon CEO of Women’s Health in the South East.

  • Growing cancer cases and less access to cancer treatment
    • In 2020, due to the pandemic, there were
      • 8% less cancer diagnostic procedures,
      • 16% lower breast cancer procedure and
      • 13% decrease in gynaecological cancer procedures.

“Women are at significant risk of illness and death due to preventable cancer treatment being postponed, delayed or cancelled during the pandemic. We need education and campaigns to encourage women back to health prevention and seeking the support they need” said Amanda Kelly, CEO of Women’s Health Goulburn North East.

Victorian women’s health is deteriorating because not enough money is spent on preventing illness and disease, with a gender bias in investment and priority.

“Victorian women are sick of small change. Women’s Health Services were funded $4.35 per woman when we started, now it’s down to $2.05 per woman. This is not enough to beat the crisis we’re seeing in women’s health in Victoria. This spare change funding is making women sicker,” said Tricia Currie, Chair, Women’s Health Services Council.

“Before the pandemic, women’s health was under significant strain, now it is so much worse. It is essential that we have an adequately funded women’s health services sector to be able to respond to the crisis in women’s health. And we need new and boosted investments in LGBTIQ, people, women with disabilities, Aboriginal women and migrant and refugee women whose health is disproportionately affected by inequality,” said Ms Currie.

Women’s Health Services have today released a joint statement calling for the Victorian Government to act NOW in addressing the crisis of Victorian women’s health. They are calling for a per woman increase of $5.75 to fund urgent health prevention and promotion programs and for first time, dedicated investments for women with disabilities, Indigenous women and LGBTIQ women and trans and gender diverse people, as well as a boost to migrant and refugee women. Read the joint statement here [Password: Crisis] with quotes from all women’s health services.

The Women’s Health Services Council has not yet met with Hon Martin Foley Minister for Health or the Hon James Merlino Deputy Premier and Minister for Mental Health. The Council is continuing to seek their commitment to increasing funding for women’s health services across the state to address the significant impact of COVID-19 on women’s health and wellbeing.

The media event is scheduled for today, Tuesday, 1 March 2022 at 10am-11:30am. At the event you will hear from Women’s Health Victoria on the current crisis of women’s health, followed by a panel addressing intersectional experiences of women’s health, and a panel of women with lived experience of poor health outcomes.

Visit the following link to join the event:

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 881 2738 0826

Passcode: 262967

Media will have the opportunity to speak directly to WHS CEOs from a statewide and regional perspective.

For state-wide women’s health service media contact:

  • Dianne Hill, CEO of Women’s Health Victoria on 0400653649
  • Adele Murdolo, CEO of Multicultural of Women’s Health on 0438 823 299
  • Nadia Matiazzo, CEO of Women with Disabilities Victoria on 0407887366
  • Marina Carman, Director of Rainbow Health Australia on 0414 788 852

For metro and regional media contact:

  • Southeast Metropolitan – Kit McMahon, CEO of Women’s Health in the South East on 0408250272
  • East Metropolitan – Elly Taylor, CEO of Women’s Health East on 0498 455 161
  • North Metropolitan – Helen Riseborough, CEO of Women’s Health in the North on 0417536552
  • West Metropolitan – Kate Phillips, Acting CEO of GEN WEST on 0418 136 107
  • Loddon Mallee – Tricia Currie, CEO of Women’s Health Loddon Mallee on 0428365929.
  • Barwon South West Victoria – Emma Mahony, CEO of Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West on 0455944093.
  • Goulburn North East Victoria – Amanda Kelly, CEO of Women’s Health Goulburn North East on 0418856345.
  • Grampians Region – Marianne Hendron, CEO of Women’s Health Grampians on 0429265724.
  • Gippsland Region – Kate Graham, CEO of Gippsland Women’s Health on0410 460 250

Quotes from Kit McMahon, CEO, Women’s Heath in the South East (WHISE)

“The evidence is in. Women need their health and wellbeing looked after now,” said Kit McMahon, CEO of Women’s Health in the South East (WHISE).

“For too long women have held the mental and physical load of our society – in our expectation of women doing unpaid care, in their take-home pay, in the insufficient health care they receive, in the violence that they experience, in their homelessness and even in their retirement.

“The issues women face across our region are significant. In the inner city region of Port Phillip, more women than men are self-harming and are hospitalised because of this, which is double the rate across Victoria. This is the same in the outer southern suburbs around Casey where just under triple the number of women are being hospitalised for self-harm compared to the rest of the state.

“Women are weary and COVID has exacerbated it. If we really are going to recover from the pandemic and create a truly equal society then it is time to show that we do respect women enough to care for them,” Ms McMahon concluded.