Department of Health

Improving women's health

Key messages

  • The department provides services to improve health outcomes for Victorian women, especially those in disadvantaged groups.
  • The Victorian Government has released it's first-ever women’s sexual and reproductive health strategy and priority action plan Women’s sexual and reproductive health: key priorities 2017–2020.
  • This page also includes links to related sites for more information about services for women.

Women’s sexual and reproductive health: key priorities 2017-2020 is Victoria’s first women’s sexual and reproductive health strategy and action plan to improve the sexual and reproductive health of all Victorian women.

The plan is supported by a $6.6 million investment for action and education to:

  • reduce stigma and improve knowledge of sexual and reproductive health
  • improve understanding and management of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and menopause
  • increase awareness and access to contemporary contraception
  • establish community-based family planning hubs across Victoria
  • expand education and access to medical termination of pregnancy.

Women’s sexual and reproductive health: key priorities 2017-2020

Health services for women

Locate your nearest regional women’s health service using the metropolitan and regional areas map on the Women's Health Victoria website, and the list of women's services on this page. 

In case of emergency dial 000. 

1800 My Options - Sexual and reproductive health helpline

1800 My Options provides Victorian women with sexual and reproductive health information, helping direct them to clinical services such as contraception, pharmacy services, counselling support, termination providers and a range of other services.

For more information phone 1800 696 784 or visit the 1800 My Options website.

Maternity services

The Maternity Services Program aims to provide high-quality birthing services in Victoria’s public hospitals.

Victorian Women’s Health Program

The Victorian Women’s Health Program aims to improve the health and wellbeing of all Victorian women, but especially those at risk. It funds 12 services – three statewide services, four metropolitan services and five regional services.

Statewide women’s health services

  • Women’s Health Victoria provides health information, health promotion resources and advocacy resources. 
  • The Multicultural Centre for Women's Health provides multilingual health promotion information, training, research and advocacy.
  • The Women's Health Information Centre is a free confidential health service that offers information, support and referral options on women’s health issues and in a range of languages.

Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program

Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program providers work with women, girls, men and communities who may be affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to:

  • promote community and individual knowledge and awareness about the practice
  • prevent this practice from occurring among women and girls who have settled in Victoria
  • dispel an erroneous belief that religions sanction this practice
  • empower girls, women and men to speak out about the adverse effects of this practice on the health and wellbeing of girls and women
  • increase access to timely and appropriate sexual and reproductive health services by women and girls who have undergone this procedure prior to their settlement in Australia
  • build the skills and expertise of mainstream and specialist sexual and reproductive health and other services, so they can respond with confidence to the needs of women and girls affected by or at risk of being affected by this procedure.

FARREP resources list

The health of Victorian women and girls

Women and girls make up just over half of Victoria’s population. Victorian women are living longer, but with more chronic illness and more years living with a disability. Further, their patterns of disease differ as they age, and from the disease patterns among men.

Compared with men, women have higher rates of mental, sexual and reproductive ill-health and morbidity, for example. They also have different cancer patterns and main causes of death. Over half of women’s deaths in Victoria are from heart failure, with two thirds from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

In summary, while women share many challenges with men, they differ in disease patterns, in risk factors, and in the services that women need and want.

Factors affecting women’s health

Economic, social and cultural disadvantage can worsen women’s health. Women from disadvantaged groups tend to live shorter and less healthy lives. These groups include women who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, live in rural areas, live in socioeconomic disadvantage or have a severe mental illness.

Other drivers of ill health are when women are victims of violence, discrimination or disadvantage, and when they have insufficient income. For all these reasons, women’s health needs differ as their circumstances change, and across their lifecycle.

Family violence has a major direct and indirect impact on women’s health. In fact, intimate partner violence is the major preventable health risk factor for Victorian women aged 15 to 44 year. In Victoria in 2013, family violence accounted for 42 per cent of crimes against the person and 44 deaths.

These stressors can contribute to particular health risks in women. Nearly one-third of women do not undertake sufficient physical activity for good health, and many, like men, do not eat enough fruit and vegetables. Compared with men, they have higher levels of physical inactivity, eating disorders, body image issues, and high risk weight gain around the waist. All these health risks require gender sensitive approaches.

Equality in access to health services

Gender equality contributes to better health. So, work to improve women’s health is helped by gender mainstreaming that addresses women’s specific health needs. The department works to ensure women have access to the full range of quality services and information that they need and want. This accords with the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. It also supports services that are responsive to gender, biology and diversity.

In this context, women’s diversity includes age, location, Aboriginality, culture, ethnicity, language, disability, disadvantage (such as insufficient income, assets and personal safety), refugee and asylum seeker status, and gender, sexuality and sexual difference.  For some further statistics on women's health issues, see Victorian Women's Health Atlas

All Victorians have the same rights to:

  • access and receive high-quality, safe healthcare
  • have their needs equally well met
  • equity of access. 

Health promotion, disease prevention and early intervention specific to women can bring about substantial changes in health outcomes. Women’s cancer death rates, for example, have fallen as a result of recent pap and breast cancer screening rates (around 60 per cent of eligible Victorian women).

Efforts need to address women’s health and wellbeing across the spectrum, from health promotion and empowerment, through to clinical approaches and treatment. Traditionally, medical research focused on men, so missed key experiences specific to women and girls. Today, health systems recognise that women’s health needs, differences and drivers can empower women and improve their health outcomes.

    Reviewed 03 November 2021


    Contact details

    Prevention and Population Health Branch Department of Health

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