The CEOs of Victoria’s 12 women’s health services are calling for an immediate uplift in investment to secure the health and wellbeing of Victorian women. The release of data that shows Victorian women have gotten sicker, more anxious and depressed since the commencement of the COVID19 pandemic is alarming and should spur immediate action.

We’re calling for Women’s Health Services funding to be increased from $2.05 per woman to $5.75 per woman. We want first time investments for women with disabilities, Indigenous women and LGBTIQ women and trans and gender diverse people and a boost for migrant and refugee women, too.

Victorian women are sick of their health being short-changed.

Victorian women are tired of their health services being in crisis.

“Victorian women are sick of small change. Women’s Health Services were funded $4.35 per woman when we started, now it’s down to $2.05 per woman. This is not enough to beat the crisis we’re seeing in women’s health in Victoria. This spare change funding is making women sicker,” said Tricia Currie, Chair, Women’s Health Services Council.

“Before the pandemic, women’s health was under significant strain, now it is so much worse. It is essential that we have an adequately funded women’s health services sector to be able to respond to the crisis in women’s health. And we need new and boosted investments in LGBTIQ people, women with disabilities, Aboriginal women and migrant and refugee women whose health is disproportionately affected by inequality,” said Ms Currie, Chair.

Representing the interests of three million women across every region of Victoria, CEOs are coming together to address the deterioration of gender-equal health outcomes.

A combination of the COVID19 pandemic, coupled with a history of short-changing women when determining health investment, has resulted in serious deterioration of the health of Victoria’s women including:

The continued erosion of Victorian Women’s mental health.

  • In 2020 38.2% of Victorian women reported having ever been diagnosed with depression or anxiety compared with 29.0% five years ago.
  • In 2020 an estimated 27% of Victorian women reported high or very high psychological stress compared to 18.% in 2015.
  • Women are also more likely to be hospitalised for self-harm in comparison to men. Of the 6,185 Victorian hospital admissions for self-harm in 2019, 4,046 (65%) were female and 2,139 (35%) were male.

The exacerbation of incidents of violence against women  

  • Since 2017, reported incidents of sexual offences have grown, with 14.5 sexual offences per 20,000 persons for female victims compared to 2.5 per 10,000 persons for male victims. In 2020, female victims of sexual offences in Victoria outnumber male victims at a ratio of 5.6:1
  • Since 2017, incidents of family violence have also increased, with a particular increase in the far south east of the State, where 2019-20 Bushfires and COVID19 pandemic have combined to make the Local Governments of Wellington, East Gippsland and Latrobe the most dangerous locations in Victoria for women at risk of family violence.

The worsening of women’s fitness, body mass index and heart disease

  • An estimated 44.6% of women in Victoria are overweight (pre-obese or obese), based on self-reported body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher, up from 18.1% pre-pandemic to 2.8% to 20.9%.
  • Less than half of all Victorian women are getting the recommended level of physical activity and daily exercise
  • 34% increase in heart disease diagnosis

Poorer sexual and reproductive health

  • In 2020 we saw concerning trends in sexually transmitted disease, with an 11% increase in syphilis, and increased cases of Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Hepatitis B.
  • Meanwhile, pelvic pain that affect 15 per cent of women of reproductive age has never been addressed due to gender bias means it has been stigmatised, dismissed and related conditions are poorly diagnosed and treated.

 Growing cases of cancer and less access to cancer treatment

  • Although there is a rapidly growing population of Victorian women diagnosed with cancer, with varying levels of need for ongoing practical and psychosocial support, in 2020, there were
    • 8% less cancer diagnostic procedures,
    • 16% lower breast cancer procedure and
    • 13% decrease in gynaecological cancer procedures.

Rising cases of dementia

  • Women suffering from dementia has risen from 7.0% in 2019 to 8.9% in 2020. There is a significant gender gap in dementia patients, with Victorian women suffering from the disease at double the rate of Victorian men. In 2019, an estimated 60,380 women were living with dementia in Victoria, compared with 34,553 men.

Preventing illness and disease in Victorian women is core business of the State Government, helping to keep women healthy and well, contributors to our economy and saving considerable costs in acute, tertiary health service provision, especially hospitalisations.

Together, we call for the Victorian Government to act NOW in addressing the crisis of Victorian women’s health. If we want Victorian Women’s Health to improve and to promote COVID-19 recovery and resilience in our communities we have to shift our minds from coins to cash.

This joint statement is endorsed by:
  • Gender Equity Victoria
  • Women’s Health Victoria
  • Women with Disabilities Victoria
  • Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
  • Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West
  • Women’s Health Grampians
  • Gippsland Women’s Health
  • Women’s Health Goulburn North East
  • Women’s Health Loddon Mallee
  • Women’s Health in the South East
  • Women’s Health in the North
  • Women’s Health East