National Women's Health Policy

A strong and emerging evidence base

Page last updated: 07 February 2011

The need for more detailed research and data on women and their health was strongly endorsed. Many submissions highlighted the importance of data collection covering the full spectrum of difference in women’s lives including age, place, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, cultural and linguistic background, and immigrant or refugee status.

The consultations suggested that all government and government-funded data collected should include this information where possible and, at least, conform to the Australian Bureau of Statistics minimum standards on culture and language.

Some submissions suggested expanding the evidence base. This could be achieved by continuing to fund the Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health and broadening it to include social health and new cohorts. The submissions suggested the potential to link the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health with other databases such as the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey and the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.

Suggestions also included setting up a funded body to act as a national clearinghouse for women’s health information, and establishing a gender health unit in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The multi-disciplinary focus for research received strong support. Typical responses are shown below.

Further research should be done to identify and focus on current and emerging gaps in women’s health care through comprehensive needs analysis and engagement with women and health professionals. The research effort should be multi-disciplinary, acknowledging the diversity of Australian women and the presence and impact of disease co-morbidities (such as depression and anxiety), and should also include evaluation of interventions.
(The Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health Submission p. 4)

In continuing to build a strong evidence base for women’s health policy, we believe that improvements to existing routine data collections can and should be made. For example, existing data collections rely on male oriented measures of socioeconomic position, as current measures of income miss the value of women working in the home. As a result, routinely collected national surveys continue to be structured around a masculine template. Furthermore, in building a comprehensive evidence base we would like to highlight the importance of interdisciplinary research collaborations when approaching and investigating complex health problems.
(Life Course and Intergenerational Health Research Group: University of Adelaide Submission p. 4–5)