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Introduction and life course approach

Why do we need women’s health strategies?

Better for women report Life course approach banner

51% of the UK's population is female; 47% of the UK's workforce is female.

Yet women's health has not received the attention it deserves.

As a result, women are experiencing health inequalities and outcomes that could be avoided.

  • 49% of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their periods
  • 45% of pregnancies are unplanned
  • Less than 50% of all pregnant women have a BMI within the normal range
  • 44% of women say the menopause affects their mental health
  • The number of deaths from cervical cancer is predicted to grow by 143% by 2040

This report provides recommendations for policy makers and public health bodies to prevent illness and ensure the best health outcomes for all girls and women in the UK.

Our primary recommendation – the creation of a national Women’s Health Strategy that adopts a life course approach to women’s health – is the first important step towards ensuring better health for girls and women, now and in the future.

A life course approach

During every woman's life, there are many opportunities to help her improve her physical and mental health.

Adopting a life course approach offers the potential for early intervention to reduce the risk of certain diseases from developing.

There are 3 key stages in a woman's life course, although we recognise that many health issues may be present in several life stages.


This is a crucial stage in the female life course with the onset of menstruation, sexual activity and fertility. High quality reproductive health education delivered at school and preventive health strategies, such as HPV vaccination, are vital.

The middle years

In addition to the ongoing need for contraception and healthy lifestyle advice, many women require specific help to manage menstrual disorders such as heavy bleeding and pelvic pain.

The lessons learnt from a woman's response to being pregnant will have an influence on her health in later life. It is crucial that all women undergo a health check following pregnancy to ensure that future pregnancy complications and preventable health problems in later life are avoided.

The later years

Managing the transition through the menopause provides opportunities to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent the onset of chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, frailty and dementia.


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Download the chapter: A life course approach (PDF)

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Download the full report: Better for women (PDF 5.6mb)