Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC) is looking to create a new Smart Health Community to better support women experiencing menopause in the workplace, announcing a new pilot project with Western Sydney University and digital health start up Metluma.
There are approximately 3.2 million Australian women aged between 45 years and 55 years of age who will experience menopause. Symptoms include hot flushes, tiredness, headaches, poor concentration, low self-confidence, anxiety and depression. Research shows close to 50% of women in the UK, Australia and the USA report finding work difficult because of menopausal symptoms, with 6 to 10% of women leaving the workplace as a result.
It is envisaged a Smart Health Community – a term coined by Deloitte, where digital technologies are used to foster a sense of community among groups of people with similar health goals – focused on menopause will help to build health literacy as well as address the shame and stigma associated with menopause with both women and in the workplace.
This pilot initiative will see Metluma develop a custom-built digital platform to provide a fully integrated model of care that brings together physical, behavioural and lifestyle education, delivered by experienced General Practitioners as well as Nurses and other Allied Health Providers, with support from a high touch digital solution.
“The lack of understanding from employers and work colleagues can exacerbate the difficulties women experience in dealing with menopausal changes,” said Metluma Co-Founder and CEO Georgie Drury.
“While much policy and practice focuses on women of childbearing/rearing age, it is vital that we also understand and support women who are transitioning to, or are in, their menopausal years.
“We have a real opportunity to develop and evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of an integrated care model focusing on awareness, education, empowerment and behavioural change and using a digital health platform to put a personalised solution directly in the hands of the millions of working women that are directly affected by the symptoms of menopause every day.”
This pilot initiative will evolve a mixed methodology longitudinal evaluation of 36 working women aged between 40 to 60 years old undertaken by Western Sydney University Researchers Professor Jane Ussher and Dr Tania Perich.
“This initiative will ultimately aim to build an evidence-based protocol, model or framework,” Professor Ussher said. “Quantitative and qualitative methodologies will be used to determine the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of a Smart Health Community in menopausal health literacy, wellbeing and coping with menopausal change in the workplace.
“This pilot study is the first step in a longer-term project, facilitating a larger-scale, statistically-powered randomised controlled trial, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Smart Health Community, across a range of work contexts and a diverse range of menopausal people.”
DHCRC CEO Annette Schmiede said the concept of the Smart Health Community aligns with the DHCRC priority of promoting education and capacity building across the digital health sector.
“The innovative intervention and mixed method analysis has the potential to not only provide insight into menopause but to act as a model for other digital health interventions in women’s health, such as menstruation, dysmenorrhea, infertility, endometriosis and premenstrual syndrome (PMS),” Ms Schmiede said.
“As Australia and other advanced nations seek to increase women’s participation in the workforce, understanding their unique health needs across the lifecycle is critical.”
 Australian Bureau of Statistics
 Kopenhager, T. and F. Guidozzi. Working women and the menopause. 2015; 18(3): p. 372-5.