In a move he described as “long overdue”, the Australian Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, has announced that the Federal Government will develop the first National Action Plan for endometriosis.
In an address at the official launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Endometriosis Awareness on Tuesday night, Hunt said that the chronic health condition should have been given more attention earlier and apologised on behalf of parliament.
The National Action Plan will work to improve education, awareness and research funding around endometriosis, which occurs when tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of it, resulting in debilitating pain and fertility issues. The government has initially offered a $160,000 grant to the University of Queensland for research into the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis, which currently has no known cause or cure.
A joint statement from Hunt and MPs Nola Marino and Nicolle Flint said that the government is taking action so the struggle that women face will no longer be silent or their battles private.
"We will work with the medical community and key stakeholders to look into what gaps might be present in training, support and care."
"The Jean Hailes Foundation, supported by Turnbull Government funding, will also make endometriosis a key feature of next year’s Women’s Health Week, to raise awareness of the condition."
Founder and CEO of Endometriosis Australia, Donna Ciccia, says that for the one in 10 Australian women who suffer from the disease, it’s an important start.
“For the women out there who are impacted by endometriosis, it’s the fact that they are being acknowledged,” she told Women’s Health.
“Currently they are in one paragraph, in fetal medicine, in all of the government policies, that’s it. So at least we are now on the map, we have now had our voices heard and they’re being acknowledged for everything they have had to go through.”
Symptoms vary amongst sufferers of endometriosis, but they often go undiagnosed during their teenage years with heavy, painful periods being overlooked. Campaigners have long called for better education about the disease in high school.
“It’s important because we currently have a delay between seven and 12 years for a diagnosis which is just horrific,” Donna says. “So if we can get young girls to understand and acknowledge what’s happening and have a voice to say ‘I don’t think this is normal’. Women are told that period pain is normal, then no one is going to seek help and that feeds into the delayed diagnosis.”
Endometriosis Australia ambassador and radio personality, Mel Greig, who has been open about her experience with the disease, told Women's Health that the announcement will help normalise the way we talk about it.
"It can be incredibly hard to explain to a new partner what endo is and i'll never forget the day a guy asked if 'he could catch it'," she says "As a single woman I want to feel comfortable having a discussion about my condition in the early stages of a relationship."