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WOMEN’S health and equality should be worth “more than small change”, a new united call argues. Increasing government funding to about the price of one cup of coffee for every Victorian woman, every year, is what women’s health advocates say will achieve a big difference. A Gender Equity Victoria report, released on Tuesday, estimates a $5.60 annual government investment, per regional woman, is a fraction of the projected $41.2 billion repercussions for tax payers should preventative measures not be strengthened to address key health crises emerging from pandemic conditions. Funding for women’s health services across Victoria has remained about $2.07 per woman, per year, for the past 20 years. Women’s Health Grampians chief executive officer Marianne Hendron welcomed the budget submission to better tackle compounding and multi-layered issues of gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and family violence prevention across the Grampians. Ms Hendron said under investment meant support and advocacy could not happen “at a realistic level”, particularly in such a large and varied region. In the past two years, during the pandemic, Women’s Health Grampians has reported stark increases in family violence and teenage pregnancy above the state average. Family violence in Ararat has risen to levels almost double the Victorian average and was an issue across the region that Ms Hendron said was continuing to prove “massively concerning on a number of levels” Four Grampians local government areas rank in the state’s top five teenage pregnancy rates: Yarriambiack (which takes in Rapanyup, Warracknabeal and Hopetoun). Horsham, Ararat and Northern Grampians (Stawell). IN OTHER NEWS: Eight of the 11 Grampians LGAs have teenage pregnancy rates that top the state average. “What can we do about it? If we had the funding we would embark on more research projects to determine why this is,” Ms Hendron said. “There is a significant role for research and gathering evidence to identify strategies to address these things whether it be by locality or cohort. “…One issue we have is accessing current data. There is often a lag or lack of localized data. Teenage pregnancy is a concern for the region but data can be out of date so rapidly and then it’s not much use. Investment can yield an awful lot.” Women’s Health Victoria offered an alarming snapshot on the state of women during COVID-19 in co-launching the Gen Vic report on Tuesday. A forum had a particular focus on the exacerbated health deterioration for migrant and refugee women, women with disability and lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. For regional and metropolitan-based women, there have been clear added hurdles to accessing services in the pandemic.

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