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Health specialists come together to tackle women’s health issues for International Women’s Day

Dr Dawn Harper of ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ fame joined health specialists from around the city for International Women’s Day today (8 March) to plan how the city can work together to tackle issues around women’s health in Bristol.

Organised by the Bristol Women’s Commission, today's conference comes after publication of the UK’s Chief Medical Officer’s report on women’s health and the council’s own Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA)*. Both reports reflected concerns raised in the Bristol Women’s Voice’s ‘Womanifesto’ about areas for improvement in women’s health within Bristol and the rest of the country.

The reports revealed for example that over 1.5million adults have a history of childhood physical or mental abuse nationwide, 84% of which are women**. It was also shown that 1 in 4 people across the country have been victims of domestic violence; in Bristol 74% of these victims were women***.   

Locally it has also been shown that Bristol’s women live on average for around 18 years in poor health whilst women’s life expectancy in Bristol is now significantly lower than the national average****. Bristol’s hospitals reported nearly four times more cases of self-harm or self-poisoning for women than men last year*****. 

In order to try and tackle these problems on a local level a wide range of medical professionals will be coming together to begin planning a strategy for improving the health of women in Bristol.

The strategy will focus on three key issues highlighted by the report:

  • Mental health
  • Domestic violence
  • Lifestyle issues

Alongside Dr. Dawn Harper, speakers at the conference included Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol and Becky Pollard, Director of Public Health. Penny Gane, Chair of Bristol Women’s Commission chaired the conference.

Penny Gane, Chair of the Women’s Commission, said: “The Chief Medical Officer’s report on the health of the 51%: Women couldn’t come at a better time. We are determined to ensure women’s health needs are met in Bristol whether that involves GP training in tackling under diagnosed conditions in women or redoubling our efforts to eliminate domestic violence and abuse in the city. The new strategy will provide a real focus on reducing health inequalities in the city.”

Dr Dawn Harper said: “Women’s health issues are very real and often overlooked.  Whether these are circumstantial, personal, mental or physical it is important that these are looked at and understood in order to try and overcome them.  It is great to see that Bristol is shining a light on these issues.  I hope that by attending I will be able to do my bit to help shape a wider strategy for improving women’s health across the city and setting a standard for other cities across the country.”

Marvin Rees said: “Improving the health of everyone in Bristol is an important priority for the city however it would be wrong not to recognise that there are differences in the issues which affect women and men.

“By bringing together professionals and experts on International Women’s Day I hope that we will be able to have constructive and informed discussion about health in the city and that together we can continue our work towards creating a healthier and more equal society.”

This conference continues the work of the Women’s Health Task Group, one of six task groups of Bristol Women’s Commission. 

There will be a range of workshops throughout the day which focus on specific women’s health concerns including one on menopause.  Currently in Bristol it is estimated that around 15,500 women in Bristol are experiencing menopause.  The Chief Medical Officer’s recent report suggested that around a fifth of women who experience menopause say that the affects (sleep deprivation, hot flushes, night sweats) disrupt both their personal and working lives. 

Join in the discussion online through social media by using the hashtag: #womenshealthbristol

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