Women’s health on the agenda


Funding for cervical and breast cancer, endometriosis and reproductive health programs have been announced as part of the Federal Budget

The Federal Government will invest $354 million over the next four years to support women’s health as part of the 2021-22 Federal Budget, said Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt on Monday.

This includes $100.4 million for improvements to cervical and breast cancer screening programs which will help detect life-threatening cancers earlier, improving survival rates.

“We lose almost 3500 women a year to these two conditions,” said Minister Hunt. “We nevertheless have some of the highest survival rates in the world.

“We are on track by 2035 to be potentially the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer. The combination of our vaccine, of Gardasil and now Gardasil 9, of our vaccination program and our screening program, this gives real help for Australia to save lives and protect lives but also to be a world leader.”

Over half of the funding towards screening programs would provide women aged 70-74 with access to free mammograms, complementing the BreastScreen Australia’s free mammogram services for women 50–69 years.

A further $22 million will go towards additional gynaecology items on the MBS, including items for Assisted Reproductive Technology and long-term reversible contraceptives.

The PBS listing of Oripro®️ (progesterone) to prevent women going into premature labour will receive $19.3 million.

This listing will begin from 1 June and save around 14,250 women up to $300 per course of treatment, said Minister Hunt, adding “It’s hard to imagine a more important medicine.”

More than $21 million will go towards women’s health initiatives, including Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia for the Periods, Pain and Endometriosis Program (PPEP-Talk).

Minister for Women, Senator Marise Payne, said “We’re providing additional funding to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians suffering from endometriosis. Affecting one in nine women, endometriosis can lead to severe chronic pain, and in some cases, infertility.”

The Government will support new tests on the MBS for pre-implantation genetic testing (PGT) of embryos for specific genetic or chromosomal abnormalities prior to implantation and pregnancy.

“Currently only couples of individuals, who are carriers of serious genetic disorders can only access PGT if they are able to pay privately,” said Minister Hunt.

“We’re investing $95.9 million for five new MBS items, ensuring all Australians can access this testing.”

More than $47 million will go towards supporting the mental health and wellbeing of new and expectant parents, including through funding for the Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) helpline, and by working to deliver universal perinatal mental health screening and improved data collection across public antenatal and postnatal care settings.

“We know that perinatal mental health can have an enormous toll. In many ways it’s still a hidden condition and we have to help support it, but bring it into the light,” said Minister Hunt.

“There is a real challenge of perinatal anxiety and depression and this support will help save lives and improve lives.”

The remainder of funding will go towards supporting people with eating disorders; the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance to reduce pre-term birth rates; and the Breast Cancer Network Australia to operate its helpline, rural and regional information forums and extend its consumer representative training program.

The Federal Government’s National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030 has five priority areas: maternal, sexual and reproductive health, healthy ageing, chronic conditions and preventive health, mental health, and the health impacts of violence against women and girls – core issues affecting the lives and livelihoods of women and girls.

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