National Women's Health Policy

Social factors influencing women's health and wellbeing

Page last updated: 07 February 2011

Good health is ‘complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity’.344

Overall, significant improvements have been made in the health of Australian women in recent decades. However, these improvements have not been experienced equally throughout the community.

Certain groups of Australia women, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, experience markedly worse health than the general population. A key ongoing health challenge is to address these inequalities.

This chapter explores the key social determinants which can influence women’s health and wellbeing. These social determinants are explored under the four thematic headings of:

  • Sex and gender
  • Life stages
  • Access to resources including income, education, employment, social connections and safety and security
  • Diversity
The impact of each of these on women’s health is explored below and an outline provided of current government action to address these.

Access to health care, particularly primary health care such as general practitioners and other health care providers, is extremely important for all Australian women to allow prevention, early detection and treatment of illness, and management of chronic conditions. Some groups of women face significant barriers in accessing health care services and information. Improving access to health services is a significant contributor to improved health outcomes.

Health reform represents a strategic shift in the way in which health services are delivered. It seeks to shift the focus of our health system towards a greater focus on enhanced health promotion, preventative health and greater attention to monitoring and managing Australia’s escalating burden of chronic disease. An underlying principle of health reform is to enhance equity of access to high quality health care. These themes are explored further under the health reform section.