Women's Health Australia: The Australian longitudinal study on women's health

Professor Annette Dobson Study Director, (University of Queensland), Professor Christina Lee (Project Manager), Dr Wendy Brown (University of Queensland), Emeritus Professor Lois Bryson, Associate Professor Julie Byles, Associate Professor Justin Kenardy (University of Queensland), Dr Gita Mishra, Associate Professor Margot Schofield (University of New England), Dr Penny Warner-Smith, Dr Anne Young et al

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH) is a national initiative based at the Universities of Newcastle and Queensland. The project is open to researchers with a contribution to make to women's health, within the broad framework and goals of the study.

Associate Professor Julie Byles from the CCEB is an investigator on the ALSWH with a keen interest in the factors influencing the health and well being of women in the oldest cohort of that study. This cohort were aged 70-75 years at the start of the study in 1996. The third survey of these women occurred this year. The data provided by these women allow for valuable insight into factors affecting health and health care use for older women in Australia, with emphasis on factors operating at an individual and societal level. Already a national resource, the future value of the study will increase as longitudinal data accumulate.

With her co-investigators, Associate Professor Byles has developed a picture of healthy ageing among older women, explored health service use by these women including those with special needs (eg. Diabetes), analysed the natural history and role of social support and social participation, assessed the health impacts of widowhood, contrasted the health of urban, rural and remote dwelling women, and derived new constructs for assessing socioeconomic status of older women and the impact on health. In 2002, her work with the study centred mostly around longitudinal analysis of the health impacts of sleep disturbance and sleeping medication use which are common problems among women in this age group. This year two other academics from CCEB collaborated with the study investigators. Dr David Sibbritt and Dr Jon Adams are working with the team to develop an understanding of the use of complementary and alternative medicines by Australian women. We look forward to further collaborations between CCEB members and the ALSWH project team for the future.

Website: www.alswh.org.au/