Department of Health

Why improving sexual and reproductive health is important for health and wellbeing

Sexual and reproductive health is important for everyone. It is not only about physical wellbeing – it includes the right to healthy and respectful relationships, health services that are inclusive, safe and appropriate, access to accurate information testing, treatment, and timely support and services (including access to affordable contraception).

Sexual and reproductive health is important across the life course. Good sexual and reproductive health involves gender equality, respect, safety and freedom from discrimination, violence and stigma. It is critically influenced by power dynamics, gender norms and expectations and is expressed through diverse sexualities.

Sexually transmissible infections and bloodborne viruses including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) continue to impact the health and wellbeing of Victorians, in particular those at greatest risk. The virtual elimination of new transmissions of HIV and hepatitis B and C in Victoria is a possibility due to the significant advances in prevention, testing, treatment and management.

What we want to achieve

  • Promote and support positive, respectful, non-coercive and safe sexual relationships and reproductive choice (including planned, safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth).
  • Improve knowledge and awareness of factors that affect the ability to conceive a child, and increase access to contemporary, safe and equitable fertility control services to enable Victorians to exercise their reproductive rights.
  • Early diagnosis, effective treatment and management of specific reproductive health issues, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and menopause.
  • Reduce sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses through prevention, testing, treatment, care and support.
  • Work towards eliminating HIV and viral hepatitis transmission and significantly increase treatment rates.
  • Reduce and eliminate stigma, including homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.

 

  • All organisations can play a role in improving sexual and reproductive health by providing reliable information, including non-judgemental sexual and reproductive health services.

    Examples of key Victorian and national sources of information include:

    Better Health Channel
    Victorian Government website providing quality-assured, reliable, contemporary and locally relevant, health and medical information.

    Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health
    Organisation whose goal is that all rural Victorians have access to quality sexual health care, information and support that is tailored to their individual needs. Resources are available for health promotion and education, including online learning modules.

    Family Planning Victoria
    Provides reproductive and sexual health clinical services and information as well as professional development for health and human service professionals, teachers and youth workers, including relationships and sexuality education for schools, education and health care resources.  

    Health Direct
    Provides health information, advice online and over the phone, and can locate various health services near you, phone 1800 022 222.  

    Health Translations Directory
    Directory for health professionals and community members with reliable, accurate, and up to date health and wellbeing information in over 100 languages linking to multilingual resources published by government departments, peak health bodies, hospitals, and community health and welfare organisations.  

    Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
    Provides clinical care in women’s health issues from adolescence to midlife and beyond, consumer health information and health professional education on women’s health.  

    Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (MSHC)
    Provides clinical services to Victorians to manage and prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), consumer health information and health professional education.  

    Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
    A community-based organization for women from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Provides women’s health information resources in over 70 languages, works to increase migrant women's access to services, and provides training, research and advocacy.

    National Cervical Screening program
    Every five years, women aged 25 to 74 years should present for a cervical screening test. Together with the human papilloma virus immunisation, this is a cervical cancer prevention strategy.

    Parentline
    Confidential, 24-hour phone line providing information and advice to Victorians about the care and health of children from birth to 18 years old, phone 13 22 29.

    Royal Women’s Hospital
    In addition to its women’s health services, the Royal Women’s Hospital provides evidence-based consumer health fact sheets on women’s health on its website.

    Victorian Assisted Reproduction Treatment Authority (VARTA)
    Independent information and support for individuals, couples and health professionals on fertility and issues related to assisted reproductive treatment.

    1800 My Options
    An information service operated by Women's Health Victoria providing phone and web-based information on women’s sexual and reproductive health, including contraception, pregnancy options and health service providers in Victoria.

  • By using a whole-of-organisation approach that includes staff, students, families and the wider community, early childhood services and schools are ideally placed to improve health behaviours, promote healthier behaviours and contribute to chronic disease prevention. Better health in turn supports better learning outcomes and sets children and adults up with healthy habits for life. Early childhood services and schools are also workplaces and have a valuable opportunity to positively influence healthy behaviour of the people who spend time there (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    The Achievement Program provides guidance and support for education settings to become healthier places for their communities. The program is a free initiative that identifies evidence-based actions to create healthier places, provides links to best-practice resources and case studies, and provides Victorian government recognition once applicable standards have been met.

    Good sexual and reproductive health is important for the general health of all, including the next generation. Sexual health and wellbeing is one of the Healthy Schools Priority Areas, ensuring that all staff and students have access to appropriate education and resources on healthy relationships, confidence and healthy sexual behaviour.

    Evidence-based actions that early childhood services or schools can take to improve the sexual and reproductive health of student include:

    Ensure students and families have access to age and life-stage appropriate sexual and reproductive health education, information and resources

    Specific reproductive health issues are associated with different life-stages, with the impact of poor reproductive health being greater on women and girls, due to both biological and social factors.

    Sexual health and wellbeing is about ensuring that students (and families) have access to age-appropriate education and resources of relevance to sexual health.  

    School policies and curricula about sexual health and wellbeing should reflect diversity and be inclusive of the whole school community.

    Involve families in sexual and reproductive health education and raise awareness that educating students does not increase sexual activity, sexual risk-taking behaviour or STI/HIV infection rates

    • Embed a respectful and inclusive culture within the school or service, including support for de-stigmatisation of sexual and reproductive health as well as sexuality and gender identity.
    • Provide a dedicated private space for discussion of personal and confidential matters.
    • Consider involving experts, such as nurses and general practitioners, in providing sexual and reproductive health information.
    • Support students to access (age-appropriate) timely and accurate information, support and prevention, testing and treatment services. 
    • Consider having sexual and reproductive health, respectful relationships and wellbeing information and materials visible and readily accessible in the school for students and families. Provide information in multiple languages, as required.
    • Work with the local council, families and students to facilitate delivery and promotion of the human papilloma virus school immunisation program.
    • Make details of local sexual and reproductive health service providers available.
    • Ensure that school policies about sexual health and wellbeing reflect diversity and are inclusive of the whole school community.
    • Promote international and national days associated with sexual and reproductive health in secondary schools:
      • National Condom Day (14 February)
      • International Women’s Day (8 March)
      • Endometriosis Awareness (March)
      • International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (17 May)
      • Men’s Health Week (15 June)
      • World Hepatitis Day (28 July)
      • Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Week (September)
      • STI Testing Week (second week in September)
      • World Contraception Day (26 September)
      • World AIDS Day (1 December)

     Resources on this topic include:

  • The health and human services sector encompasses many skilled professionals who are trusted by the community to provide accurate information and advice, and who are uniquely positioned to encourage Victorians to adopt behaviours that are not only good for their health, but subsequently also good for the environment. The environment is a determinant of health, so reducing our environmental footprint is also good for health. The increased health impacts due to climate change are expected to place additional pressure on health and human services. Planning and building capacity and resilience to respond to these impacts will be necessary for the sector, as well as the community.

    Health or human services are also major employers (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    Evidence-based actions that health or human services can take on climate change and its impact on health include:

    Implement plans, policies and measures to support adaptation to the health impacts of climate change

    Health and human services play a key role in planning for adaptation at a local level. For example, health and human services could:

    • undertake place-based health risk assessments of climate change impacts upon patient and clients' health, as well as assets, workforce, and services
    • implement health-protective adaptation actions to protect patients and clients from the impacts of climate change.

    Resources on this topic include:

    • Pilot Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 2019-21, Department of Health and Human Services - This plan is the first step in a long-term process of building resilience to climate change. It will help the sector to further embed climate change considerations into policies, planning and operations, and to respond to the significant risks climate change poses to health and wellbeing and the health and human services system.
    • Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2018-19 to 2022-23, Victorian Health and Human Services Building Authority - sets out the department's commitment to improve both the environmental performance of the health system and create resilience in the face of climate change.
    • Heat health plan for Victoria, Department of Health and Human Services - outlines how the department together with local government and the health and human services sectors, can work together to promote public health and wellbeing before and during periods of extreme heat.
    • Heat health resources, Department of Health and Human Services - There are a number of resources for the health and human services sector, such as a factsheet for clinicians, extreme heat preparedness checklist, heat health communication resources, as well as a link to subscribe to the department's heat health alerts.
    • State Extreme Heat Sub-plan, Emergency Management Victoria - This plan outlines the Victorian arrangements for the coordinated response to the impacts and consequences of extreme heat events (including heatwaves) on the community, infrastructure, and services.
    • Victorian Healthy Homes Program, Sustainability Victoria - The Victorian Healthy Homes Program is a Victorian Government home energy efficiency program. It provides free home energy upgrades to up to 1000 Victorians who live with complex healthcare needs, and have low incomes, in Melbourne's western suburbs and the Goulburn Valley. Councils or community health providers can refer potential participants, within the program's target area, to the program.

    Improve awareness and understanding of the link between climate change and health, and actions that patients and clients can take to stay healthy in a changing climate and reduce their impact

    Health and human services are a large sector with influence on the communities that they reach and are uniquely positioned to support patients and clients to stay healthy in a changing climate. For example, health or human services could:

    • support improved awareness and understanding of the health impacts of climate change
    • support innovation and improvements in office-based sustainability and sustainable practices in services
    • implement health-promoting and emissions-reducing policies such as programs to encourage sustainable, healthy diets and reduce food waste, and to promote a more active lifestyle.

    For actions and programs for increasing active living and healthy eating in health and human services, see:

    Increasing active living - Actions in health and human services

    Increasing healthy eating - Actions in health and human services

  • Health and human services are key players in the Victorian prevention system. The healthcare system encompasses many skilled professionals who are uniquely positioned to encourage and support Victorians to adopt healthy behaviours. Health service providers are a key source of reliable and trusted health information.  

    Health and human services are also major employers in many communities (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    Evidence-based actions that health or human services can take to improve sexual and reproductive health include:

    Provide access to accurate sexual and reproductive health information and services

    Accessible and equitable services, treating people fairly and based on their need and not making judgements or assumptions about a person’s sexual activity based on vulnerability or disadvantage contribute to good sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Timely access to accurate sexual and reproductive health information and services is a fundamental right for all Victorians.

    • Support health professionals in continuing professional education to maintain and strengthen their knowledge, skills and attitudes.
    • Promote patient-centred services and care in relation to sexual and reproductive health.
    • Involve clients in decision-making about their sexual and reproductive health options.
    • Implement clinical health pathways for sexually transmissible infections and blood borne viruses to ensure appropriate management of patients.
    • Embed a respectful and inclusive culture within the service, including support for diversity and the de-stigmatisation of sexual and reproductive health, gender and sexuality.
    • Promote international and national days associated with sexual and reproductive health:
      • National Condom Day (14 February)
      • International Women’s day (8 March)
      • Endometriosis Awareness (March)
      • International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (17 May)
      • Men’s health week (15 June)
      • World Hepatitis Day (28 July)
      • Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Week (September)
      • STI Testing Week (second week in September) Victorian Government
      • World contraception day (26 September)
      • World AIDS Day (1 December)

    Resources on this topic include:

  • Workplaces offer unique opportunities to promote health and wellbeing and create healthy working environments for staff in the places they spend the most of their time. Creating a healthy workplace can be complex but there are areas where a few vital behaviour changes can have a major impact and will help staff participate, be well, be more productive and contribute to the community. Healthy workplaces help staff make healthier choices and improve the overall culture of an organisation.

    The Healthy Workplaces Achievement Program provides guidance and support for workplaces to become healthier places for their employees. The program is a voluntary, free initiative that identifies evidence-based actions to create a healthy place, links members to best-practice resources and examples, supported by local experts to support workplaces on their journey and provides Victorian Government recognition once these standards have been met.

    Good sexual and reproductive health has a positive effect on the physical and mental health of the workforce.

    Evidence-based actions that a workplace can take to improve sexual and reproductive health include:

    Embed a respectful and inclusive culture within the workplace, including support for diversity and the de-stigmatisation of sexual and reproductive health, gender and sexuality

    Support women in accessing relevant health care, for example cervical screening tests, and accommodating the needs of women at particular life stages, such as menopause.

    Menopausal transition is emerging as an important workplace issue, for instance:

    • Employees want a fair, inclusive enabling workplace.
    • Menopause can be costly for employees and employers if not managed positively
    • Menopause is a concern in relation to employers’ legal responsibilities surrounding duty of care for employee health and safety and discrimination.  

    Employers can reap the benefits from retaining, developing and supporting diverse employees. 

    Promote international and national days associated with sexual and reproductive health:

    • National Condom Day (14 February)
    • International Women’s day (8 March)
    • Endometriosis awareness (March)
    • International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (17 May)
    • Men’s health week (15 June)
    • World Hepatitis Day (28 July)
    • Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Week (September)
    • STI Testing Week (second week in September) Victorian Government
    • World contraception day (26 September)
    • World AIDS Day (1 December)

    Resources on these topics include:

Reviewed 10 November 2021

Health.vic

Contact details

Prevention and Population Health Department of Health

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