Sexual health is an integral part of overall health and wellbeing. Research has found that good sexual health offers a host of positive benefits, including improving social and emotional health. But far too often, women’s sexual health concerns are not addressed by healthcare professionals.
Although a survey of U.S. women found that seven in 10 have experienced a sexual health issue, a culture of discomfort around women’s sexual health often inhibits open conversation about women’s sexual health concerns even between clinicians and their patients.
In fact, surveys of U.S. women and healthcare professionals have found that each group often looks to the other to start a conversation about sexual health. A poll of U.S. healthcare providers by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) and HealthyWomen found that 74 percent of providers rely on their patients to initiate a discussion about sexual health, while a survey of U.S. women found that 73 percent preferred for their clinician to broach the subject.
There are many reasons for this disconnect – from patients’ lack of awareness that their symptoms can be treated, to a lack of training or time for healthcare professionals to address their patients’ concerns, to a general discomfort with women’s sexual health among all parties. The end result is that women often don’t receive adequate care for important sexual health issues.
To help break down these barriers, NCL has joined together with other leaders in the field of women’s and sexual health to launch the Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health. The Alliance is committed to working together to help women advocate for their sexual health during clinical visits and to give clinicians the tools they need to ask about and address their patients’ sexual health concerns.
Over the course of the coming year, we’ll be working to raise awareness about the barriers to open conversations about women’s sexual health, and we’ll develop a discussion guide and user-friendly tools to help women and clinicians start and sustain conversations about sexual health concerns. In the meantime, you can find helpful resources from our member organizations at www.advancingwomenshealth.org.
We believe a sea-change is needed to make sure women of all ages and backgrounds have their concerns heard without feeling judged or ashamed. By raising awareness of sexual health issues and working to normalize these conversations, we hope to improve women’s sexual health and overall quality of life.