Push to create ‘paradigm shift’ in women’s reproductive health

Matt Woodley

23/09/2019 2:48:33 PM

A new $2.5 million centre will investigate ways GPs and other primary healthcare workers can deliver best practice reproductive services.

Woman waiting for doctor
Only about 1300 of Australia’s 35,000 GPs are currently registered to provide medical abortion.

Many Australian women are currently struggling to access abortions or even get advice on contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Most affected are younger women and those in rural and remote areas, which has contributed to more than a quarter of Australian women of reproductive age having had an unplanned pregnancy in the past decade.
That’s the problem the new Centre of Research Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women in Primary Care (SPHERE) is designed to fix.
SPHERE Director Professor Danielle Mazza, who is also Chair of General Practice at Monash University, told newsGP the goal of SPHERE will be to improve the sexual and reproductive health of Australian women through primary care.
‘Preconception, contraception and abortion are all often intertwined in women’s lives. What we want to bring about is a paradigm shift in the way GPs deliver these services, to approach it in a comprehensive way in an effort to help women achieve their own reproductive life goals,’ she said.
‘Abortion is just one component, but it’s a particularly important one because of Australia’s 35,000 GPs, only about 1300 are currently registered to provide medical abortion.
‘Women … would prefer to have these services delivered through their GP; they find it accessible and comfortable to deal with this issue in general practice.
‘They can also access contraception at the same time, so it would make services more comprehensive, patient-focused and better for women.’
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said any efforts to help GPs provide advice and services in this area is welcome.
‘If women are struggling to access terminations of pregnancy or get advice on contraception, this is a problem,’ Dr Nespolon said.
‘We must be mindful that some doctors will consciously object to providing such services and their rights must be respected.
‘However, no woman makes the decision to get an abortion lightly and we must do all we can to ensure women in all corners of Australia have proper access to the care they need.’
While the direct focus of SPHERE is on how to help practitioners themselves deliver high-quality care, the broader objective is to improve access and outcomes for women.
‘Currently, how women get care on contraception, preconception and medical abortion is largely siloed, with little consideration of how these issues are intertwined in women’s lives or how to help women achieve their reproductive goals,’ Professor Mazza said.
‘We’re doing studies trying to determine what models of care work for the delivery of abortion services, as well as how to utilise practice nurses and involve pharmacists, trying to find out women’s preferences for how the service delivered.
‘Abortion is also a bit stigmatised and a lot of GPs have some concerns. They might feel isolated or unsupported, so these are all the kinds of things we’re hoping to address through the centre.’

abortion reproductive health rural health women's health

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