Monash Expert: SPHERE NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence federal budget response

Professor Danielle Mazza AM

The federal government’s 2024-25 budget placed some emphasis on women’s health.

The following can be attributed to Director of SPHEREProfessor Danielle Mazza AM.

SPHERE is the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centre of Research Excellence in Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in Primary Care.

Professor Mazza is not available for further comment.

“The 2024-2025 budget brings welcome news for women’s health, with a broad spectrum of initiatives addressing a range of health conditions including endometriosis, miscarriage, preterm birth, breast cancer and menopause. There is good news too for women’s sexual and reproductive health, particularly in the areas of contraception and abortion.

“Most welcome is the announcement that the sexual and reproductive health telehealth Medicare item numbers introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic to support remote access to essential women’s health services, such as abortion, are to be made permanent.

“Access to abortion will also benefit through budget measures supporting nurse practitioners. Some $5.7 million goes to new 60 minute Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item numbers to support nurse practitioners and their requests for ultrasound scanning. Ultrasounds are commonly required when providing medical abortion care and this initiative will support nurse practitioners to deliver abortion services. This update is in line with the Therapeutic Goods Administration changes last year which authorised nurse practitioners to prescribe abortion medicine MS-2 Step.

“Workforce capacity development is another focus of the women’s health budget. A scholarship fund of $5.2 million dollars will be made available to support primary care health professionals undertake training in the insertion of intrauterine devices. The scholarships will support travel, accommodation and course costs, and will be of particular assistance to those working in rural and regional areas. There is also the promise of an MBS review in relation to item numbers for insertion and removal of long acting reversible contraceptives. Increased rebates may encourage more GPs to deliver these services and ensure improved access.

“Other important sexual and reproductive health-focused initiatives include:

  • $1.1 million for the development of a virtual contraceptive decision-making tool to help women better understand their contraceptive options.
  • $5.5 million to support for the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to develop a new dataset on sexual and reproductive health to give a better picture of what services are being delivered, and where there is unmet need.

“Assistant Minister Kearney is to be congratulated for introducing these initiatives and others that are aligned to the National Women's Health Advisory Council’s four areas of focus: Access, Care and Outcomes, Empowerment, Safety and Research.

“While many of the SPHERE Coalition’s recommendations to the Senate Inquiry into universal access to reproductive health are being implemented in the Budget, the most significant one, the recommendation to provide free contraception and abortion services to Australian women, has not. Affordability of these services will need to be a focus of the government moving forwards if Australian women are truly to have universal access to essential women’s health services.”

For more information regarding SPHERE's recommendations to the government, please visit, https://www.spherecre.org/our-impact/coalition/consensus-statements


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