Publish date: 30 September 2021
A message from Joanne Bull, Associate Director of Patient Experience:
Women’s Health and Wellbeing Action Group
Mersey Care has historically had an active women’s network with a focus on female service users and patients accessing our mental health services. As a provider, Mersey Care is one of the largest trusts providing physical and mental health services in the north west, serving more than 11 million people. So, we want to reform and extend the scope of the network to include all the services that Mersey Care offers to women.
We want to establish a ‘community of practice’ for all health and wellbeing practitioners with an interest in women’s access to services to ensure health equity and gender equality.
What is a community of practice?
A community of practice is a self-selecting group with passion, commitment, and expertise in the area of interest, in this case women’s health and wellbeing, that supports multi-professional learning. It is a knowledge exchange to build the groups’ capability and expertise to address the challenges and inequalities women face in getting equitable access to health care.
We know that nationally and regionally social determinants of health such as deprivation, low income and poor housing, have always meant poorer health, reduced quality of life and early death for many people. The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly exposed how these existing inequalities - and the relationship between race, gender and geography, are associated with an increased risk of becoming ill with COVID-19 and other socioeconomic impacts.
If you would like to become involved with this community of practice and share a common interest in women’s health and wellbeing, and want to focus on addressing challenges through sharing best practices and creating new knowledge please contact: Joanne
We would also like to invite people who use our services to be part of this group to share with us their unique insights. So, if anyone would like to bring someone along they would be well supported, and it is intended to extend the membership of the group to anyone using our services, who has an insight or interest in women’s health inclusion.
Why get involved?
There is a global ambition to end gender inequality and restore health equity for women by 2045. However, in the report ‘Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On’ (June 2020), the findings were that women’s life expectancy has declined and the years spent in ill health increased, for the first time in a century, particularly in the more deprived areas of the country. Some areas, especially in the north, have been ignored and left behind, as health has improved elsewhere. Although it is of note that the north west has not shown this same decline.
The review highlights the social determinants of health, detailing that inequality arises from a complex interaction of many factors including, but not limited to: employment, income, home, and community – all of which are strongly affected by a persons economic and social status.
Women's ill-health is the product of the social status they occupy in society and their position in the social hierarchy. There are no biological reasons for women's stalling life expectancy and worsening health. Whilst the environment in which women are born, live, work, and their age are playing a huge role. In addition to gender disparities, there are also further inequalities amongst groups of women including black, Asian and minority ethnic women (BAME), and disabled women.
In broad terms poorer communities, women and those living in the north have experienced little or no improvement since 2010. There has been a slow down in life expectancy of a duration not witnessed in England for 120 years and that has not been seen to the same extent across the rest of Europe; the most likely reasons being due to the social determinants of health.
Mental health issues, for example, affect both men and women, however, women are more likely to have a common mental health problem (19%) in comparison to males (12%). BAME women face additional inequalities and challenges to their mental health. 29% of black women and 24% of Asian women have a common mental disorder, compared to 21% white British women.
Female employment rate reached a record high of 72.4% in 2019, however, women make up the majority of people working part time (73%), in involuntary part time work (56.8%), in temporary work (53.9%), and on zero-hour contracts (54.7%). In addition to this, disabled women earn less (22.1%) than non-disabled men.
Furthermore, there are considerable differences in the employment rates of BAME women. Despite an increase in educational outcomes for BAME women, they are more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. 72% of white women are in employment with Bangladeshi and Pakistani women having the lowest rates of employment, both under 40%.
Lower rates of employment make women more vulnerable to poverty, particularly BAME women. When measured on the household basis in 2016/17, adult women in the UK were more likely to live in poverty with 21% compared to 19% of adult men. Female headed households are poorer in comparison to male headed households.
Almost half (48%) of single parent households are living in poverty compared to a quarter of (24%) of couple headed households. Lone parents have the highest risk of being in persistent poverty with the vast majority (86%) of single parent households being female headed. This gap continues later in life in older age groups with 23% of single female pensioners living in poverty compared to 18% of single male pensioners.
Women's experience of the social determinants of health has potential serious adverse effects on health, employment, and the economic wellbeing of individuals, families, communities, and societies.
What do we want to achieve?
Across Mersey Care services we want to ensure there is no variation or barriers to access for women using our services. We want to prioritise action on health disparities associated with social determinants, including employment, home and income. Recognising intersectionality is important if we want to ensure we understand women's experiences of health. Ethnicity, religion, age, location and social class all affect women’s experiences and outcomes of health.