1 November 2017

Let's talk about sex

| Emma Davidson
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Womans healthYou’d be amazed at how much we still don’t know about Canberra women’s access to information or services for sexual and reproductive health.

With all the data that is collected by various service deliverers, analytics for online information services, and research by academics (we have excellent researchers into women’s health at Canberra’s universities), you’d think we’d have the answers and it would just be a matter of designing effective services and health promotion campaigns.

But it’s not that simple. For example, we don’t know how many women are accessing services from someone other than their usual GP or an ACT service provider, or why.

We also don’t know where they’re getting their information on sexual and reproductive health. We need to hear from women of all ages to make sure that any gaps in health promotion are covered – women of all ages may need information about preventing STIs.

It’s not just the sensitive subjects of STIs and contraception where we have an information blank spot. There are some women who aren’t getting regular mammograms or pap smears, which may leave them at increased risk of undetected cancers. We want to know how many women are not having these checks done, and what’s stopping them.

Data on service delivery only tells us the demographics of people who access them. It doesn’t tell us anything about people who are unable to access services, how they feel about the service they received, or the reason for their choice of one service over another. If we really want to improve services and access to information, we need to know these things.

What’s the best way to find out what women think? Ask them!

That’s exactly what the Women’s Centre for Health Matters is doing with their new community consultation survey about ACT women’s sexual and reproductive health.

This is an opportunity for women to share their views and let us know about health service access, any barriers, and their knowledge about contraception, STIs, health screening, and termination of pregnancy. The Women’s Centre is looking for women, or people whose health needs include care for a female reproductive system, of all ages over 15 years, who live or work in the ACT or surrounding regions, to participate anonymously.

The survey asks for information about:

  • How ACT women access information about their sexual and reproductive health;
  • How and where ACT women access sexual and reproductive health services;
  • Whether there are barriers to access; and
  • How comfortable ACT women feel in seeking services and advice from healthcare providers about sexual and reproductive health.

As you might expect, the questions do get very personal. But all answers will be anonymous and confidential. The Women’s Centre expects it will take around 15-30 minutes to complete the survey, as not all questions are relevant to all women. For example, if you’ve not had to consider termination of pregnancy in the past three years, you won’t have to answer any questions about where you may have accessed services or what barriers to access you may have experienced. Or if you’re not currently sexually active, you may not need to answer as many questions about contraception.

You can find out more and complete the survey before 5pm on Friday 24 November. Any questions about the survey can be directed to the Women’s Centre by email, or phone 02 6290 2166.

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