One of the UK's best doctors is making an effort to revolutionize health services for women, helping them prevent unplanned pregnancies to avoid the disease in old age.
Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, co-chairs a task force for women's health with government minister Jackie Doyle-Price, which aims to help 51% of the population of women to enter part care and attention to their needs throughout life.
Regan said that women had to set up more appointments to see health workers in different clinics and GP practices on related issues, because the services did not focus on their needs. Contraception and sexual health care, for example, "are crucial for girls and women's health and are so fragmented and many women fall through fissures not able to access very simple things," he told the Guardian.
In an ideal world, "a teenage girl can go to a clinic, a women's facility or a women's store, and can access her smear, her contraceptive advice, get very simple information, preferably infographics, about what she needs to do to get ready for safe sex and when she wants to get pregnant to have the best possible result for her pregnancy, "said Regan.
The college will publish its strategy on women's health in the fall. Regan first pressed Jeremy Hunt when he was a health secretary, and then Matt Hancock, his successor to produce one. Taking a life approach for women's health could also save money, he said. The task force was established in November.
Women "have a huge burden of responsibility," he said. "So it's not just that they are the majority of the population and tend to use health resources not only when they're sick, but when they do normal things like having contraception and having a baby and getting their cervical screening. So they affect all their children and their families and often in old age have care responsibilities for elderly relatives ".
"There is much more to women's health than maternity services," Regan told ministers. "I used the analogy with which we spent the days of Margaret Atwood and The Handmaid's Tale in which women focus on the incubation of children and then, after delivering them, it's the end of them "he said.
The health service has the opportunity to intervene to help women feel good. In the teens and young adults, women come for contraception and sexual health counseling, which could allow a nurse or doctor to discuss pregnancy planning.
"Success means that every young woman understands that having a pregnancy without problems is giving her baby the best start in life," he said. "Most pregnant women do not understand that what happens during pregnancy lasts a lifetime for that child and then moves on to the next generation."
According to Regan, when women come to give birth, doctors have the opportunity to collect health problems that could cause problems in the years to come. "If during pregnancy I had a premature birth or gestational diabetes or a mental health problem, it is almost like a prescription for what will happen to me in 20 years.
"We collect all this information after the baby, but we don't do anything with it. So wherever you go for your post-natal check, they tend to focus on the baby, which I understand."
But if they focus on the woman, Regan says, they might suggest that they could lose weight because they are at risk of becoming a type 2 diabetic, or help them get support for common mental health problems that would otherwise be repeated.
It is also another opportunity to help women prevent unplanned pregnancies. Regan cited a successful project that started in South Africa, where women are offered the pin after giving birth. "I would love it if we could convince our midwives and doctors to think about it, providing post-pregnancy contraception. It would help if someone spoke to every woman after giving birth on contraception. Midwives and health workers used to do it and the GP did it and now it's nobody's business, while it should be everyone's business, "he said.
"My third point was to develop the club 51 – 51% of the population and 51 is the average age of menopause in the western hemisphere. Most women become menopause and nothing is offered. One or two get a bit of HRT [hormone replacement therapy] if they're lucky, "he said.
They also need support, he said, to avoid heart disease and bone fractures. "Doctors talk about this massive group of women that is always expanding and that are good in terms of longevity, but they are becoming increasingly dependent and fragile".
So far, the task force has had two meetings to start planning a strategy. Regan believes that revolution is possible.
"It's a realization among our politicians and politicians in the health department that many people have fallen through the cracks. My argument has always been that women have been disproportionately disadvantaged by public health cuts because many of the services they women need access for general body maintenance, if you prefer, as opposed to poor health, they fall under the umbrella of public health and have been fiercely cut, "he said.