New Inquiry Aims to Report on the Experiences of Women in Pain

Women’s health issues are often overlooked or underdiagnosed, even within our health system. We know many women face discrimination, bias, sexism and barriers to care. The Victorian Government, through the Women’s Health and Wellbeing Program, is working to bridge the gap in women’s healthcare and health outcomes by conducting an Inquiry into Women’s Pain — The first of its kind in Australia.

The Inquiry into Women’s Pain was informed by findings in the Listening to women’s voices: Results of the Victorian women’s health survey 2023 report. It provides an opportunity for individuals, clinicians and organisations to share their experiences and knowledge on women and girls’ pain, care, service and treatment in the Victorian health system. This includes but is not limited to Victorian girls and women from 12 years of age.

The Inquiry will report on these experiences and make recommendations that will form the basis for improved patient care.

Inquiry Purpose

To conduct an inquiry into women’s pain in Victoria that will provide an opportunity for the experiences of girls and women to be heard and acknowledged. The Inquiry will report on these experiences and ensure that they inform the Inquiry’s understanding of systemic issues and solutions that will form the basis for improved patient care.

Inquiry Context

It is well established that women and men experience pain differently and respond differently to medicinal and non-medicinal pain interventions. Chronic pain affects a higher proportion of girls and women than men around the world; however, women are less likely to receive treatment.

Research has also shown that women generally experience more recurrent pain, more severe pain and longer lasting pain than men. Moreover, there are types of pain that impact women disproportionately, such as musculoskeletal, abdominal, head and neck pain. Persistent pelvic pain is another condition and is estimated to affect between 15 and 25 per cent of women and is rarely spoken about. It is estimated that pelvic pain costs Australians more than $6 billion annually in direct costs.

Women face real and enduring challenges when seeking care and support for pain. At nearly every level of healthcare, men’s health claims are treated as the default. In comparison, girls and women’s claims are often viewed as a-typical, exaggerated and even completely fabricated.

Women are adversely impacted as they lose time, money and their lives trying to navigate a healthcare system designed for and around men. Medical gender bias routinely leads to a denial of pain and therefore pain relief and associated treatment for female patients. This occurs for a range of health conditions including cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive and autoimmune conditions.

It is important that as a state we understand what best care is for girls and women by hearing and acknowledging what their views and experiences are and learning from exemplar clinical practice.

Inquiry Scope

The Inquiry will report on Victorian girls and women from 12 years of age with living and lived experience of pain and consider opportunities to improve access to treatment and care.

It will:

  1. Provide an opportunity for girls and women from across our community to share their experiences of pain and pain management in their own words, and for these experiences to be heard and acknowledged.
  2. Listen to the experience of girls, women and clinicians to identify the barriers and enablers when accessing care, treatment and services for pain conditions.
  3. Describe the impact of the current service delivery system on care for pain conditions.
  4. Identify opportunities to improve the care, treatment and services for pain conditions.
  5. Consider appropriate models of care, service delivery frameworks, workforce skill mix and other areas requiring change.
  6. Translate research and evidence-based interventions that address unwarranted sex and gender variations and improve the equity of outcomes relating to the access and efficacy of pain management.

The Inquiry will explore the areas above by:

  • Applying an intersectional lens when listening to, and acknowledging individual’s experiences of pain, including those living with chronic and persistent conditions, such as endometriosis, migraine, fibromyalgia and other types of pain.
  • Consulting with clinicians, service organisations and stakeholders involved in the care, detection, diagnostics, treatment and support of those living with pain conditions.

This process will be facilitated through:

  • Submissions from community and sector stakeholders
  • A survey of girls and women with lived experience and healthcare workers
  • Community consultations with girls, women, healthcare workers and key stakeholders.

The Sub-Committee will deliver a final report of the Inquiry into Women’s Pain to the Victorian Women’s Health Advisory Council by December 2024. The Inquiry report will include recommendations to inform improved models of care and service delivery for Victorian girls and women experiencing pain in the future.

(Please note: All the information we have included about the Victorian Government’s Inquiry into Women’s Pain was sourced from the Victorian Government Department of Health website.)

What We’d Like You to Do

CreakyJoints Australia believes the experiences of Victorian women with pain are similar to those in other states or territories in Australia. Therefore, we welcome comments from patients, carers, health professionals, consumer groups or organisations and members of the public across the country. We are also happy for you to tell us about any form of pain you experience, such as arthritis, endometriosis, peri-natal pain, migraines or fibromyalgia.

Your comments can respond to any or all the following questions and you are welcome to provide any additional comments you would like the Victorian Government to consider.

  • Tell us how pain affects your life or the life of someone you know. Try to be as specific as possible including impacts on everyday activities, school, family, friends, and mental and emotional health.
  • How do you prefer to manage your pain? Can you access the pain management treatments or services you need? If so, would you say these treatments and services are helpful or unhelpful?
  • What are the barriers or enablers you face in accessing pain management treatments or services? For example, are they affordable, available, appropriate or effective? Are there other factors that influence your access to pain treatments or services, such as age, cultural or language factors?
  • Do you believe your gender affects your quality of care? Why or why not?

Your comments can be as simple as a few bullet points or as long as a page. We will collate your comments into a single submission and send it to the Victorian Government on your behalf. Please note that if your comments do not address the scope of the Inquiry, we may not be able to include them in our submission.

We value your privacy and will only include your first name and the first initial of your last name with your comments, unless you tell us otherwise.

How to Submit Your Comments to Us

Please send your responses to us by:

  • Typing your comments into a Word document and attaching that to your email OR
  • Typing your comments directly into your email.

Please email your comments to Rosemary Ainley at rainley@creakyjoints.org.au OR info@creakyjoints.org.au no later than 5 pm on Sunday 25 February 2024.

 

If you wish to make your own submission directly to the Victorian Government you can do so by going to https://www.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/inquiry-into-womens-pain-submissions#rpl-skip-link.

 

Kind regards,

The CreakyJoints Australia team


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