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Ensuring global health and gender equity by overcoming menstrual health challenges

  • 28 May 2023
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At Burnet, we’re proud to be supporting Menstrual Health and Hygiene Day. 

Menstrual health is crucial for women, girls and people who menstruate globally. 

Unmet menstrual health needs are likely to result in harms to physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Yet menstrual health is a problem overseas and here in Australia. 

Improving menstrual health is about ensuring that all people who menstruate have access to sufficient information and education, products and services for self-care, access to healthcare, and a supportive social environment free from the stigma that currently surrounds menstruation. 

Burnet Co-Head of Global Adolescent Health Dr Julie Hennegan said menstruation was something women and girls had been taught to hide for too long. 

“Menstruation is happening to half the population for nearly half of their lives, yet we neglect to mention it when it comes to global health and human rights,” she said. 

“MH day is an opportunity to be more vocal in our advocacy. We want to see commitments to providing the education, services, infrastructure and healthcare for people who menstruate.”

Dr Hennegan said Burnet was conducting vital research to inform policies and programs related to menstrual health. 

“We’re filling critical evidence gaps to test the impacts that menstruation has on people’s lives and recommend strategies to improve menstrual health,” she said.

Burnet is conducting a landmark study in Bangladesh, together with the James P Grant School of Public Health and WaterAid Bangladesh: the Adolescent Menstrual Experiences and Health Cohort (AMEHC) study. The study responds to the need for better data and evidence to demonstrate the importance of menstrual health. 

The study will follow a cohort of 2,000 adolescent girls from Khulna in Bangladesh, from 12 years of age through to later adolescence, in an effort to better understand changing menstrual health needs and their impact on girls’ lives.

“With AMEHC, we aim to provide rigorous data and quantify the extent to which menstrual health impacts girls’ physical health, mental health, reproductive health and education as they move through adolescence,” Dr Hennegan said. 

This month, Burnet also delivered a Regional Progress Review of Menstrual Health in East Asia and the Pacific, undertaken with WaterAid and UNICEF.

The report documented progress in the region across the requirements for ensuring menstrual health. 

The team found that there has been exciting increases in policy attention to providing education, products and infrastructure for menstruation, but that many countries are not attending to the need to provide improved access to care for discomfort and disorders, a supportive social environment for menstruation and ensure non-discrimination. 

The regional review highlighted that policy and plans alone are not enough. Clear lines of responsibility across different government departments and ministries, coordination, costing and budget lines were needed. 

The review identified a need for greater investment in research to guide policy and address gaps in monitoring, evaluation and evidence 

This year’s theme of Menstrual Health and Hygiene Day, ‘We are committed’, addresses the need for action. 

“The theme ‘We are committed’ is about the need for tangible commitments to actions and funding,” Dr Hennegan said.

“It is important that we raise the profile of menstrual health and talk about it in the public domain but it is even more important that we commit real resources towards improving the situation.”

“We have seen increased recognition for menstrual health in the past 15 years. What we need to see now is that recognition translated into action.”