Senate menopause inquiry called

Jolyon Attwooll

7/11/2023 1:21:56 PM

Members of the Upper House will look into the health and economic effect of perimenopause and menopause.

Woman with menopause at her workplace.
The Inquiry will have a particular focus on the impacts menopause and perimenopause have on women, their financial security, and their workplaces.

The impact of menopause and perimenopause will be looked into by a Parliamentary committee, Senators agreed this week.
The Greens Leader in the Senate, Senator Larissa Waters moved a motion on Monday (6 November) to refer the issue to the Community Affairs References Committee for an inquiry and report.
Co-sponsored by Labor Senator for South Australia Marielle Smith, the motion called for an inquiry to consider the mental, physical, and economic effects of menopause and perimenopause.
It will also consider awareness among medical professionals and patients of symptoms and treatments, including their affordability and availability.
Senator Waters said the issues should be addressed more openly.
‘Menopause and perimenopause aren’t really spoken about much publicly,’ she told the Senate while introducing the motion.
‘In fact, the first mention in Hansard of perimenopause was from me about a month ago.
‘We need to be speaking about these issues, and we need good policy to address the impacts that they’re having on women individually, on workplaces and on women’s financial security in particular.’
Dr Karen Magraith, a GP and immediate past president of the Australasian Menopause Society, has welcomed the move.
A Senate Inquiry should seek to understand how menopause affects women, including in their work and family roles, and how women can be best supported,’ she told newsGP.
‘Menopause often occurs at a time when a lot is going on in women’s lives.
‘They may have adolescent or young adult children, or ageing parents and a demanding job.
‘When women are struggling it can be difficult to tease out what is an effect of menopause and what is related to other factors.
‘For example, ageism and sexism may play a part in the difficulties that some women have at work.’
The Tasmania-based GP emphasised that access to appropriate healthcare is key and that most menopause care occurs within general practice.
However, she notes there are barriers to the right provision of care.
‘People who identify as trans and gender diverse can also experience menopause and they need access to quality information and appropriate services,’ she said.
According to Dr Magraith, menopause can also be a turning point in a patient’s health trajectory, and she believes patients should have access to a comprehensive assessment around the time of menopause.
‘This should include attention to risk factors for future cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, dementia and cancers, and checking to see whether they are up to date with screening,’ she said.
‘It’s also an opportunity to promote healthy lifestyle changes. 
‘This sort of assessment is needed before turning to a discussion about treatment options for symptoms if needed.’
Dr Magraith cites a Medical Journal of Australia article she co-authored earlier this year which suggests that 85% of symptomatic Australian women are not receiving effective, approved menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) or non‐hormonal interventions.
Longer general practice consultations needed for appropriate menopause care are also not encouraged by the way Medicare operates, she believes.
‘It’s important that the Senate Inquiry examines the barriers to longer consults and how to overcome [them],’ Dr Magraith said.
Better education about menopause for doctors and other health professionals is another area for improvement according to Dr Magraith, including both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
She also wants to see more education of the general public ‘to reduce stigma and help women make informed choices about their health’.
According to the motion put by Senator Waters on Monday, the inquiry is due to report by 10 September 2024.
Senator Waters said the inquiry will hear submissions from women, health professionals, employers and other experts.   
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