Today is International Women’s Day - an important day to reflect on the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world.
While there are many achievements by women that we could choose to focus on, I’d like to highlight something more local by reflecting on the important role BreastScreen plays in women’s health here in Victoria.
BreastScreen is over 25 years old, and was the first Australian public health screening program that had women and their wellbeing at the very centre of its mission.
We want Victorian women to receive the best health care based on the best evidence, delivered by the best staff.
BreastScreen Victoria currently screens around 260,000 women every year and our hope is that every screen is a positive experience.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #pressforprogress. These are not just words to us – they underpin every decision we make and every action we take.
Our mission is to see all women make informed decisions about their health and for us; progress means educating women and removing barriers to screening.
Here are some of the driving principles behind our mission:
- We see screening within a social context. We know that women from marginalised or disadvantaged backgrounds including women with disabilities, women from non-English-speaking backgrounds, Indigenous women and LGBTI people screen less often or not at all and as a result have poorer health outcomes than other Victorians. This should not be the case and we are working closely with these communities to overcome the barriers to breast screening.
- We create environments where groups of women from similar cultural backgrounds can find out about breast health and screen together, whether that’s a group of queer women at the Rose Clinic in Melbourne or a group bus trip for women from the Wimmera travelling to the BreastScreen clinic in Ballarat.
- Our services are delivered by ‘women for women’.
- We provide information that is accessible to all women in the community so they can make informed decisions about their health and screening; whether that’s a brochure, a community information session or a post on our Facebook page.
- We work with the women who use our service as well as service providers to help maintain a focus on the individual woman being screened. This means we critically evaluate the feedback provided by women and train our staff to ensure they understand and meet the needs of the women they see.
- Our services are free and accessible to all women - our mobile vans deliver a free, state of the art screening service to ensure that the woman from Colac, Cobden and Camberwell all have access to the same standard of screening.
- We provide support and information to women who are diagnosed with breast cancer to help them make informed choices about their future treatment.
- And, all of our services are informed by the latest research on women’s healthcare needs.
I’m proud to lead an organisation that cares for the women of Victoria and provides a quality service that enables them to prioritise their health. I encourage you today, and every day, to take care of yourself.