Victorian women are sick of small change: Underinvestment in women’s health increases illness and depression

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. Data shows that Victorian women are sicker, more anxious and depressed since the COVID-19 pandemic and immediate action is required. 

Representing the interests of 3 million women across every region of Victoria, CEOs are coming together to call for urgent investment in prevention initiatives to promote women’s health, safety and wellbeing. 

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

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

“In Melbourne’s eastern region, we are seeing high rates of women self-harming that result in hospital admission with six of our seven local government areas sitting above the state average. This is alarming given that we know that self-harm is linked to increased risk of suicidal behaviour and suicide,” said Elly Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of Women’s Health East. 

Over 40 per cent of women living in the Yarra Ranges report having even been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, which is a 14 per cent jump over 5 years. “Women in Melbourne’s east are experiencing significant rates of poor mental health due to a chronic underinvestment in health promotion and prevention initiatives. We need urgent action now,” Ms Taylor said.   

Women’s Health East ‘Parenting in a Pandemic: Women’s Mental Health and Wellbeing During COVID-19’ research report found that local women who were pregnant and parenting during the pandemic had experienced poor mental health and wellbeing. 

“I had postnatal anxiety, but I didn’t recognise that until later. I called [support service] but was told there was a waiting list and then I missed the call back – it was only later I got linked into a perinatal psychologist and psychiatrist” said one woman involved in the project. 

A combination of COVID-19, coupled with a history of short-changing women when determining health investment, has resulted in a serious deterioration of Victorian women’s health.  

“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 of the 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… 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. 

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

Together, we call for the Victorian Government to act now to address the crisis in women’s health. If we want a post-pandemic Victoria that is fair, inclusive, and equitable, we must invest significantly in women’s health. Victorian women are sick of their health being short-changed. 

The joint statement is available here.