WCHM aims to promote women’s health by working to ensure that women can contribute to and are aware of the health choices available to them. We want women to feel in control of and understand the determinants of their own health and wellbeing.
We do this in a variety of ways, including:
- Capacity Building
- Community Development
- Health Promotion
- Information Provision and Health Education
- Social Research
- Working Across Sectors
The word ‘advocate’ comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to be called to stand beside’.
WHO defines advocacy for health as: “A combination of individual and social actions designed to gain political commitment, policy support, social acceptance and systems support for a particular health goal or programme.” (WHO, 1995)
WCHM focuses on health advocacy that contributes to:
- Raised awareness of the impacts on health and wellbeing of social, economic and environmental factors
- Health services that are more gender focused, affordable, accessible and responsive
- Changes to service delivery, policies, practices, and community attitudes
- Empowering women and women’s groups to become more involved in decision-making about healthcare and broader health policy and initiatives
Capacity building taps into the existing abilities of individuals, communities, organisations or systems to increase involvement, decision-making, ownership of issues, ability to advocate and capacity to influence and promote health. Capacity building relies on the development of partnerships and recognises that strategies are more effective and sustainable if the effort extends beyond the traditional health sector boundaries. By working across sectors and systems, there is the potential to build individual skills, to strengthen community action, and to empower organisations and systems to promote sustainable health behaviours and support healthy environments.
For WCHM capacity building is the process of assisting others to develop sustainable skills, define organisational structures, grow resources and demonstrate commitment to improvement in health and other sectors. We do this with the intention of assisting other organisations to grow that will prolong and multiply health gains for women in the community.
For WCHM community development means undertaking activities to increase the strength and effectiveness of local populations and communities, improve local conditions (especially for women in disadvantaged situations) and enable women to participate in public decision-making and to achieve greater long-term control over their circumstances.
WCHM uses community development in a way that helps women to learn that they can create changes in their own lives, that their voices can be heard, and that they can contribute to addressing the issues affecting their lives by working with others to develop solutions.
We do this by bringing groups of women together and using participatory methods to help them make informed choices, and to identify solutions to common problems based on their local knowledge and priorities. This also builds women’s networks and capacities, enabling them to take action to create opportunities to improve their social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing.
Building networks in the community reduces isolation and marginalisation, and contributes to improved awareness of community issues, information sharing, and skills development. This enhances women’s health and wellbeing and impacts positively on their mental health.
One of the challenges for community development in the health setting is to ensure that health professionals do not impose their agenda, but rather that the community is assisted to make decisions about what needs to change, what services they need to access, and what support mechanisms are required to maintain the change.
Information Provision and Health Education
Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to find, assess and understand health information and health services. Individuals who are health literate are able to communicate needs and preferences, integrate new information and understand the steps required to take the appropriate actions to achieve and maintain health.
WCHM maintains a focus on improving women’s access to health information as a way of enhancing their knowledge and understanding about the causes of health and illness and improving their capacity to manage their own health and wellbeing. Improving women’s ability to access health information will increase their capacity to make informed choices about their health-related behaviours. Empowering individuals and groups through knowledge is an important health promotion objective.
For WCHM, health education involves the provision of information and education to service providers and policy makers about the issues impacting on women’s health and wellbeing. It aims to increase their understanding, motivation, skills and confidence to take action to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for women in the ACT. Health education includes the provision of information about the social, economic and environmental conditions impacting on health, and the use of the health system—not just individual risk factors and risk behaviours.
WCHM’s work is based on the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion which was developed at the first World Health Organisation (WHO) International Conference on Health Promotion held in Ottawa, Canada, in 1986. The Charter was developed as a clear statement of action for health promotion, aiming to increase the relevance of the primary health care philosophy for industrialised countries.
Health promotion refers to the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health (WHO 1986), by creating opportunities for individuals, communities and populations to understand the determinants (influences) of their health and wellbeing and what they can do to improve them. Good health promotion work is guided by the principle of inclusion, working with individuals, groups and communities who face barriers to good health to improve their health and wellbeing outcomes.
The Ottawa Charter identified three basic strategies for health promotion: to advocate for the conditions that are essential for health; to enable all people to achieve their full health potential; and to mediate between the different interests in society in the pursuit of health.
These strategies are supported by five priority action areas outlined in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (WHO, 2006):
- Build healthy public policy
- Create supportive environments for health
- Strengthen community action for health
- Develop personal skills
- Re-orient health services
WCHM’s health promotion work involves identifying the barriers women face in realising good health and wellbeing, and increasing the potential of ACT women to be involved in changing the health system to better address their needs. To do this WCHM maintains a focus on:
- Improving women’s access to health information as a way of enhancing their knowledge and understanding about the causes of health and illness, and improving their capacity to manage their own health and wellbeing.
- The participation of women in making decisions about health issues, their health care, and health service delivery, policy, planning and evaluation.
- The provision of information and education to service providers and policy makers about the issues impacting on women’s health and wellbeing. This work aims to increase their understanding, motivation, skills and confidence to take action to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for women in the ACT. Health education includes the provision of information about the social, economic and environmental conditions impacting on health, and the use of the health system—not just individual risk factors and risk behaviours.
- The requirement for good accessible information for informed decisions to be made about health and health care which is appropriately targeted for different socioeconomic, educational and cultural groups of women
- Using existing data, conducting social research, and including women’s views about their health and the best ways to address their health needs
Social research is defined by WCHM as research which gathers information about the attitudes, assumptions, experiences and views of a particular group. WCHM conducts social research in order to identify the needs of women in the ACT and surrounding regions around the social determinants of health, and to collect data that reflect women’s views and experiences. WCHM is committed to encouraging and facilitating the involvement of women in our research.
The research projects conducted by WCHM help to inform the planning, development and implementation of policy and/or of improving service delivery. WCHM’s research findings are used to advocate with Government and service providers about policy and program initiatives to better suit and respond to the needs of women in the ACT and surrounding region. They are also used to build the awareness and capacity of other organisations to respond to their women clients.
Working Across Sectors
A key component of WCHM’s advocacy work is working across sectors to achieve change—or participating in intersectoral collaboration. Intersectoral collaboration refers to our cooperation with multiple sectors in the community, which include (but are not limited to): health, mental health, human services, urban planning and services, legal, justice, domestic violence and sexual assault, and government.
For WCHM intersectoral collaboration includes the provision of information and support to other sectors to consider women’s health and wellbeing needs in their operations. Through this collaboration we aim to achieve greater awareness of the health consequences of policy decisions and organisational practice.
WCHM is committed to intersectoral collaboration through its involvement in meetings, consultations, and submissions, and its membership and support of many networks, committees and roundtables in the ACT.