Women, Child and Family Service
I noticed a job advertisement in the local paper for the Bay Of Plenty District Health Board concerning a position in the “Woman, Child and Family Service”. Notice anything? Well, it struck me as leaving out one slightly important member of the family and I wondered what the aim of the service could be. Turns out it’s an umbrella management team covering the obstetrics and gynaecology department and paediatric services including the children’s ward. This did not include social work or other services that might be work alongside these departments. I spoke to the two female managers only one of whom was forthcoming with information while the other seemed to believe that a citizen had to identify himself and presumably be the right kind of person before he had any right to know about her (taxpayer-funded) service.
A service specific to women’s gynaecological needs is certainly justified, and one can understand that treatment of children’s health problems may be helped by liaison between the paediatrician, gynaecologist and obstetrician. However, a number of concerns remained for me about this situation.
Firstly, there are sociopolitical implications in calling a service the “Woman, Child and Family Service”. The title gives the idea that families now can be considered to consist of only women and children and/or that they are the only important members, whereas fathers if they happen to be around or relevant are no more significant than any other extended family member. This picture is clearly inaccurate and counter-productive when it comes to children’s illnesses, treatment and recovery. The “fathers don’t matter” picture has been promoted far too much already through the way the DPB is provided, by our largely government-funded refuge industry, by gender-biased anti-violence and anti-alcohol campaigns and in numerous other ways seldom admitted by its perpetrators. It is highly inappropriate for our health services to add to the trend albeit perhaps unintentionally.
Secondly, is a medical service for children so intertwined with women’s gynaecological and pregnancy services that they need to be bundled together? I doubt it. Neither the mother’s gynaecologist or obstetrician is likely to be directly involved in treatment of most children’s injuries and illnesses, even if the knowledge of the mother’s pregnancy history might be at all relevant. Many medical departments will interact and inform other departments, the person’s hospital file will tend to include information about their whole medical history including prenatal and birth events, and there is nothing to stop a paediatrician from talking with the mother’s previous specialists if relevant. So why bundle these services together if not simply due to a mother-focused belief system when it comes to treating children and families?
Thirdly, is the woman-only component of this service balanced by other services devoted to men’s needs? There is no doubt that men’s health needs are in various ways different from those of women, and there is no question that men are at least as needy of health services as are women. In fact, men die around five years younger than women and suffer more often than women from almost all leading causes of early death. So where are the men-specific medical services, departments and umbrella management services?