'Healthy women are the cornerstone of healthy societies'. For me, this quote by the World Bank (2017) sums up the intent behind the publication this week of the first Women’s Health Strategy for England, which now adds detail to the vision set out in December 2021. What is key is that it is all influenced by women’s voices about what matters most to us – and many of them resonate with me both professionally and personally.
The Women's Health Strategy for England, which builds on the original vision, brings together a range of topics that predominantly impact 51% of the population assigned female at birth. It sets ambitions in some new areas, collating together activity that is both underway and planned across a range of topics.
I say predominantly impacts women because as a mum of two boys (now men) it is as important to educate both sexes about these topics and how they impact girls and women to help break taboos, support allyship and make change. This view reinforces two of the five themes: the first is ensuring that women’s voices are heard, raised, and taboos broken plus the need for education of both staff delivering care, and the public having access to appropriate information to make informed choices.
The theme of research, evidence and data is particularly welcome as this will begin to address the huge gender data gaps and will provide the impetus and drivers for change. SCW’s ‘golden thread’ of a population health and health inequalities approach means that we are able to support and capitalise on our unique position to help at national, regional, system and place-levels. We are particularly uniquely placed to continue to help with the data, digital transformation and decision support needed as well as to support transformational change and evaluate outcomes.
The strategy takes a life course approach. This is refreshing and challenges us to reframe the way we think about and deliver holistic physical, mental health and social needs aspects of care with an emphasis on being well and making informed choices to construct our own life journeys. This approach needs to be underpinned by true integrated care and the shift towards more prevention and protection approaches to drive a different health profile in future generations.
The priorities around menstrual and gynaecological health, fertility and pregnancy, menopause, and healthy aging reflect the priorities that matter most to women. We are working with our workforce, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) and wellbeing services to focus on how we support staff to remain healthy at work, including ensuring that policies and wellbeing support provide the holistic approaches needed.
Additionally, SCW has a demonstrable track record in supporting policy development and services across this life course. These include the great work to address inequality and target interventions. SCW supported NHSE in 2020 to help inform policy on infant mental services available to the under-fives, so I’m especially pleased to see the investment in perinatal mental health and the first 1001 days from conception to age 2. The importance of which is clear from the Leadsom review (2021), as this life stage sets the building blocks for lifelong emotional and physical health and underlines the criticality of the support we give to our maternity colleagues.
Early sight of the implementation framework and delivery plan and what additional investments and actions are needed over the life of the 10-year strategy would be helpful. But we are already working in partnership to support delivery across many aspects, assisting will help our partners to navigate these when they are published.
As a strategy and transformation specialist with professional and personal experience in this life course, I will be working with expert colleagues both within SCW and wider to help this evolve into reality, with a particular focus on the immediate priority items.