Experts at UCL have teamed up with leading women’s health charities to design a new education and support program for women across the UK experiencing menopause. The National Menopause Education and Support Programme will be led by Professor Joyce Harper (UCL EGA Institute for Women’s Health), Dr Shema Tariq (UCL Institute for Global Health) and Dr Nicky Keay (UCL Medicine). It is in partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Wellbeing of Women and Sophia Forum. The program has a letter of support from the British Menopause Society (BMS).
Recent research by Professor Harper has shown that more than 90% of women were never educated about the menopause at school. Over 60% only started looking for information about it once they began to experience menopausal symptoms. It is hoped that this new program will allow women reaching menopausal age to gain a greater understanding of what is happening to their bodies.
The program will consist of a course spread over several weeks, where women will be taught alongside other women who are experiencing similar life changes as themselves. The course has been inspired by those offered to pregnant people via the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).
Women will receive independent, up-to-date, and evidence-based menopause education, covering areas such as symptoms and treatments. This will be delivered by trained healthcare professionals. An important element of this new programme will be building connections with other women going through similar experiences, to develop local networks of support.
Professor Harper said: “Research has shown that women are currently poorly educated about the menopause and often go into it not understanding what to expect. Some menopausal symptoms can cause psychological issues and women may mistake their symptoms for mental health issues or other concerning causes, and this can have a negative effect on their wellbeing. We want to ensure that all women get the information they need to manage the changes they experience in this part of their life, in the best way possible.”
Dr Tariq said: “An important component of this program will be peer support. Research consistently shows that support from people experiencing similar things to yourself (for instance pregnancy, mental health issues, and other health conditions) improves understanding of health conditions or experiences, empowers people to manage their conditions or life experiences, and improves the ability to cope. Research I have conducted with women living with HIV has highlighted the need and strong desire for peer support around menopause.”
This program is being supported by the Business and Innovation Partnerships and Knowledge exchange funding teams in UCL Innovation & Enterprise.
The team was recently awarded an Innovation Network grant from UCL’s Economics and Social Research Council (ESRC)’s Impact Acceleration Account, managed by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. The funding supports the network to co-design, implement and evaluate the program with the public. It will ensure women are at the heart of the program alongside key educators, academics, clinicians, and businesses.
Professor Geraint Rees, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation and Global Engagement), said: “The National Menopause Education and Support Programme has the potential to positively impact the lives of women across the country. This project is a wonderful example of how UCL’s knowledge exchange funding and support can help multidisciplinary teams target global issues. I extend my congratulations to the team and wish them every success for the future.”
Work to develop the program will start at UCL in September.