More than 17,000 young women bucked the stereotypical ‘Generation Me’ tag last year to complete a survey that will help shape the future of health services.

Go to WHoA! – Gen Ys helping to shape health care future

29 April 2014

More than 17,000 young women bucked the stereotypical 'Generation Me' tag last year to complete a wide-ranging medical survey that will help shape the future of Australia's health care services.

The Women's Health of Australia (WHoA!) project put out the call to young Australian women to help address a gap in women's health research, with a fantastic response. Now, the challenge is to re-engage with the 18- to 23-year-old cohort for another survey round.

"We really need these young women to take part again," Associate Professor Deb Loxton, Deputy Director of the project, said. "Otherwise there will be a gap in the data we provide to government departments to inform health policy … they risk becoming the Invisible Generation."

The WHoA! recruits joined over 40,000 women who responded to an initial call in 1996 for the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH), a joint initiative between the University of Newcastle, University of Queensland and Federal Department of Health.

Later this year a major research report will be delivered to the Federal Government comparing issues facing young women today with those in the same age group 18 years ago.

"Being 20 in 2014 is a whole lot different to being 20 in 1996, of course. Through WHoA! we have seen bullying, domestic violence, drug use, self-harm, suicidal tendencies and more," Associate Professor Loxton added.

"Serious health and wellbeing issues like these may affect today's generation. We're hoping our survey participants can help us understand their lives better so that support can be directed where needed."

Recruitment methods have become increasingly challenging for researchers – contacting women by mail, as in 1996, is no longer effective so researchers had to think outside the box and hone their marketing skills.

They eventually recruited through music festivals, a fashion partnership with Australian brand Black Milk Clothing, interactive digital content, social media and other innovative platforms.

"Once women were aware of the study and its importance they were enthusiastic about taking part. The challenge was in reaching them in the first place," Associate Professor Loxton said.

"It flies in the face of the stereotype that Gen-Y are only 'in it for themselves'."

Black Milk Clothing created a range of leggings dubbed WHoA!Legs, with 2000 pairs provided exclusively for winners from the survey group.

"Having a great prize was necessary to get the attention of young women. However, the feedback has been that they were more than willing to help out because they're genuinely interested in the health and wellbeing of Australian women," Associate Professor Loxton said.

This year the major prize is $1500 cash and $1000 worth of 'WhoAdrobe' fashion gift cards, along with 100 Eftpos vouchers as minor prizes, and the researchers are again reaching out through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Women who enrolled for the survey previously can now log onto www.alswh.org.au/whoa, which went live today. It takes just 20 minutes to complete.

Background:Women's Health of Australia is a project run by the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH), a survey of over 40,000 women in three cohorts who were aged 18-23, 45-50 and 70-75 when recruitment began in 1996. In 2013 more than 17,000 women aged 18-23 were recruited to form a new cohort. ALSWH assesses women's physical and mental health, as well as psychosocial aspects of health (such as socio-demographic and lifestyle factors) and their use of health services. Since its inception ALSWH has provided invaluable data about the health of women across the lifespan, and informed federal and state government policies across a wide range of issues. The study is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

Contact: Mark Rothfield, HMRI Communications Manager
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