The All Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health was officially launched on 8th June 2016 in Portcullis House, Westminster.
Approximately 80 people attended the launch event, which brought together numerous parliamentarians, clinicians and representatives from the Department of Health, Royal Colleges, patient groups, as well as other stakeholders all interested in the establishment of a dedicated forum at Westminster to discuss women’s health.
Paula Sherriff MP, Chair of the newly established group, opened proceedings highlighting that whilst there were a range of APPGs focusing on different issues in health, this group would help provide a specific, and much needed, focus on women’s experience of healthcare and health conditions that only or often disproportionally affect women.
The group were delighted to be joined by several high profile female public figures on the day who each spoke briefly to attendees about their interest in the establishment of the group and why they support the group’s aim to empower women to ensure that they can make an informed choice about the best treatment for them and that they are treated with dignity and respect.
Katie Piper, a former model turned campaigner who was subject to an acid attack, spoke about her experience of the NHS. She said that retaining dignity in hospital was difficult for even the most powerful of women and spoke of the importance of protecting against dehumanisation during treatment. Ms Piper concluded that every woman would need the NHS at some point, so it was important they knew they would be respected and made aware of the options available to them.
Writer and equality campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez highlighted that although people expect science to be objective, it is often affected by similar gender bias often commonplace in politics and other settings. She spoke of women’s health issues being often perceived as niche, therefore attracting less funding and research. She also raised the issue of women suffering misdiagnosis due to a lack of awareness of how symptoms for common conditions may differ from symptoms experienced by men.
Journalist and TV personality Angela Rippon also spoke and stressed the need for greater awareness. She called for better education on women’s health in schools to increase awareness, which would also help to decrease the embarrassment that many women felt in talking about or seeking help for any health problems. She said the APPG needed to encourage the medical profession to listen to women and make them feel empowered.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Gina Radford was the final speaker and stressed that conversations need to be framed around women’s health needs rather than ‘women’s problems’. Dr Radford reiterated the need for greater openness and awareness in order to help women have more control over their health. Dr Radford concluded that women, the 51 per cent of the population, needed 51 per cent of the collective voice.
Informal networking followed the speaker segment and attendees were encouraged to give the group suggestions on issues they felt the group should focus on by writing their thoughts down on post-it notes and adding them to boards set up in the room.
The group was delighted to see so many people interested in women’s health issues in attendance and supportive of the group and its aims. The Group looks forward to campaigning on women’s health issues moving forwards and highlighting that women’s health needs must be prioritised across the country going forwards.
View photos from the event in our Gallery: http://www.appgwomenshealth.org/new-gallery/