Endometriosis Education in Schools: Australian First
In a first for Australia, the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia (PPFA) will pilot an endometriosis menstrual education program in schools, with a view to expanding the program nationally.
PPFA is bringing the ‘me’ (Menstrual Health and Endometriosis) program to Adelaide from New Zealand, where it has been run by Endometriosis New Zealand for the past 20 years and is supported by New Zealand’s Ministry of Education.
Australian Pain Specialist and endometriosis expert Dr Susan Evans says PPFA is looking forward to seeing the program in Australia, where there is a tremendous need for knowledge about menstrual health among teenage girls.
“About 20 percent of Australian teenage girls are missing school one to seven days every month because of their periods, without getting appropriate assessment and treatment,” says Dr Evans.
“It is important to teach girls what is normal and what is not, and encourage them to seek help from their GP early, if they are missing school or find periods distressing.
“Worldwide, an eight-year diagnostic delay from when a girl first presents with pain symptoms to a diagnosis of endometriosis is common.”
Dr Evans says girls often downplay distressing symptoms due to embarrassment, a lack of education about what’s normal, and not knowing where to find support.
Yet overlooking endometriosis can cause infertility or lead to chronic daily pain—placing unnecessary burdens on individuals, families and the wider economy.
Research into the ‘me’ program shows that consistent delivery of menstrual health education in schools increases student awareness of endometriosis and, in a geographical area of consistent delivery of the program, there is earlier presentation of young women to a specialised health service.
The program is being provided to schools by PPFA in association with Endometriosis New Zealand and coordinated by Pain Medicine Trainee Sharon Keripin from the Pain Management Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
It involves a free one-hour presentation to students in Year 9 and 10 as well as education for school nurses, school counselors, principals and assistant principals, and the provision of resources to students who self-identify as in need of support.
The pilot will be conducted in Adelaide over three weeks in August 2017. It is being funded by PPFA and will be fully evaluated. PPFA welcomes contact from individuals and organisations interested in supporting continued provision of the program.
“We strongly believe every Australian teenage girl should have access to appropriate education about menstrual health and what constitutes an abnormal level of period pain,” says Dr Evans.
“Improving the health of young people benefits everyone in our community.”