April 2023, Articles

HPSNZ increases support for female athlete health

HPSNZ has new resources in place to support the health of female athletes and they are keen to hear the views of athletes.

As part of HPSNZ’s strategic focus on wellbeing and engagement, women’s health is an ongoing prioirty.

HPSNZ has employed a specialist medical practitioner focussing on female health, Dr Helen Fulcher and, more recently, a lead for healthy women in performance sports, physiologist Dr Sue Robson.

Following the establishment of the HPSNZ’s Wellbeing and Leadership team the focus has been on actively listening to sports and athletes and identifying priorities to create real change.

In close collaboration with medicine and nutrition, the team has already been able to make simple changes to the periodic health evaluation process for athletes.

This is currently a two-step process involving a questionnaire and doctor’s appointment which all athletes complete as part of onboarding, and then every two years.

This process now includes a female-specific focus covering family and personal history as well as a menstrual health check-in. By including such screening and diagnostic tools it will be possible to understand and optimise the management of various female health issues.  Long term the goal will also extend to supporting a similar process deeper into performance pathways.

Additionally, the changes in the periodic health evaluation will also help inform the creation of information and support resources targeted to meet the needs of female athletes.

Sue Robson says that with the help of the wider HPSNZ teams she has been listening to the experience in the organisation from past and current initiatives to better understand the current state of women’s health delivery across all sports.

“The goal is to identify and prioritise key initiatives to achieve change on the ground in daily practice to improve female athletes’ wellbeing, health and performance,” says Sue.

“The focus currently is to gather input from athletes, coaches and sports leaders via the Athlete Leaders Network (ALN) and NSOs to ensure we have the correct needs and priorities to change delivery and practice.”

Sue and her team want female athletes to have their say.

“Your voice and your experience are valuable not only for current planning but for the support of all future female athletes.”

Contact the Healthy Women team: healthywomen@hpsnz.org.nz and look out for offers from HPSNZ, the ALN and NSOs to contribute to upcoming discussion groups and workshops.

If an athlete has a current female health question or concern they can book directly with Dr Helen Fulcher via Performance Health Operations support: whare.kite@hpsnz.org.nz or rachael.ward@hpsnz.org.nz.