Health Minister Announces 'Public Listening Exercise' On Women's Health

The Department of Health is to undertake a large scale 'public listening exercise' to explore views and opinions on how best to address women's health in Northern Ireland.

Announced by Health Minister Robin Swan, the exercise is being conducted by Derry Well Women, working in partnership with Queen's University Belfast, and will take place alongside the development of a Women's Health Action Plan, announced last month. These will help pave the way for the development of a longer-term comprehensive Women's Health Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Minister Swann said: "I welcome the positive shift we are seeing in our public conversation and understanding about women's health and wellbeing, and these issues are high priorities for my Department.

"I am pleased to be able to mark International Women's Day this Friday 8 March by assisting the voluntary and community sector in beginning this important task of listening constructively to NI women. We want to hear their views and experiences of the healthcare system and how it should be shaped going forward.

"By putting women at the centre of discussions we can ensure that their voices are heard and that limited funds are appropriately aligned with priorities."

 The Department has committed £10,000 funding to support the initiative which will involve surveys and focus groups with the public and voluntary and community sector, as well as engagement with healthcare professionals, to hear about their experiences and priorities for women's health in NI.

The Women's Health Action Plan will build on ongoing initiatives across Health and Social Care and will identify the priority actions that can be taken forward within the current budget, as well as those requiring additional investment.

Susan Gibson, Manager of Derry Well Women (DWW), said: "DWW welcomes the commitment from the Department of Health to prioritise a focus on women's health. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Department and Queen's University on this and look forward to engaging in a comprehensive listening exercise to hear the priorities and perspectives on health issues from a diverse range of women from across NI.

"We will remain in contact with Departmental colleagues throughout to ensure that the analysis of the listening exercise shapes the development of a Women's Health Strategy for NI which adopts a lifecourse approach to women's health."

The Department is working in partnership with Derry Well Women and Queen's University Belfast to finalise arrangements. A timescale for launch of the listening exercise will be issued in the coming weeks.

Dr Jenny McNeill, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen's, who is leading on the project, said: "We are excited to be working in partnership with Derry Well Women and the Department of Health on this hugely significant research project that will ultimately inform the development of a Women's Health Strategy for Northern Ireland.

"It is only through ensuring that women's voices are at the centre of an extensive listening exercise that we will better understand women's perspectives on the current service provision, expectations for their future health, and identify gaps to inform a future strategy for Women's Health in NI."

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