Sexual & Reproductive Health

Evaluation of a Smart Health Community for menopausal women in Australia

  • Researchers: Jane Ussher and Tania Perich (Western) Georgie Drury, Nicole Avard (Metluma)
  • Funding: Digital Health CRC, $222,000 ($90,000 to Western) - 2023

As Australia and other advanced nations seek to increase women’s participation in the workforce, understanding their unique health needs across the lifecycle is critical. While much policy and practice focuses on women of childbearing/rearing age, it is vital that we also understand and support women who are transitioning to, or are in, their menopausal years. Approximately 50% of women in the UK, Australia and the USA report finding work difficult because of menopausal symptoms, with 6-10% of women leaving the workplace as a result. In the context of these challenges and the opportunities for improved menopausal care and support, effective, personalised and scalable solutions are needed. Digital health technologies may be one such solution that helps women better manage their menopausal symptoms in the workplace, offering a single, customisable and scalable portal for women to access a wealth of information and support. To this end, this project will develop and evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of an integrated care model focusing on awareness, education, empowerment and behavioural change and using a digital health platform to build an engaged Smart Health Community.

ScreenEQUAL: Overcoming Inequity: Increasing Cervical Screening Participation for People with Intellectual Disability

  • Prof Deborah Bateson (Family Planning NSW and The University of Sydney), Prof Jane Ussher (Western Sydney University), Prof Iva Strnadova (UNSW), Julie Loblinzk (UNSW), A/Prof Kevin McGeechan (The University of Sydney), Ee-Lin Chan (Family Planning NSW), Dr Sally Sweeney (Family Planning NSW)
  • Funding: NHMRC $1.4 million ($189,000 to Western) - 2023-2026

Australia is on track to be the first country to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem by 2035 but this will only happen if no one is left behind. We know that almost three quarters of people who develop cervical cancer in Australia have either never had a cervical screening test or have been screened less frequently than recommended. Available evidence shows that people with an intellectual disability are less likely to have cervical screening than other people because of multiple social, cultural, economic, physical, sensory, psychological barriers. The National Cervical Screening Program supports screening every 5 years from the age of 25 years to 74 years, and from 1st July 2022 everyone eligible for screening can choose to have either a self-collected cervical screening test or a test taken by a healthcare professional. The overall aims of the project are to identify facilitators and barriers to participation in the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) among people with intellectual disability, and to co-design and evaluate the impact of a multifaceted intervention to improve access and uptake.


Completed Research

Sex after 55 research study

  • Researchers: Professor Jane Ussher, Professor Janette Perz, Doctor Chloe Parton and Alexandra Hawkey

Sexuality is a central aspect of quality of life, intimate relationships, and identity. Whilst there have been a number of research studies examining sexuality in young people and those of reproductive age, there has been little research on the experiences of sexuality and sexual wellbeing in women post the menopause transition and during later life. The aim of the proposed project is to examine the ways in which women experience sexuality in later life. Having greater understanding of women's lived experiences will allow for the development of appropriate health information and sexual service provision.

The construction and experience of fertility in the context of cancer: patient, partner and health professionals

  • Researchers: Jane Ussher, Janette Perz, Emilee Gilbert, Gerry Wain, Kendra Sundquist, Gill Batt, Kim Hobbs, Laura Kirsten, Catherine Mason, Pandora Patterson, Edith Weisberg
  • Funded by an ARC Linkage Grant ($693,824)

Changes to fertility can be experienced as the most difficult long term effect of cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, health professionals rarely address this important health issue, and there has been no examination of fertility concerns post-cancer across gender, across a broad range of cancer types, or from the perspective of partners. This study will examine the gendered construction and experience of fertility for men and women with cancer, their partners, and health-professionals. Psycho-social, emotional and identity concomitants of fertility concerns will be examined, as well as negotiation within relationships, and professional communication, leading to the development and evaluation of a psycho-educational intervention.

Download the latest Cancer and Fertility Self-Help Guide (opens in a new window)

Infertility‚Äźrelated distress following cancer for women and men: A mixed method study (opens in a new window)

Threat of biographical disruption: the gendered construction and experience of infertility following cancer for women and men (opens in a new window)

Sexual wellbeing and quality of life after prostate cancer for gay and bisexual men and their partners

  • Researchers: Jane Ussher, Janette Perz, Suzanne Chambers, David Latini, Ian Davis, Scott Williams, Alan Brotherton, Gary Dowsett
  • Funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, $288,013, in partnership with ANZUP Clinical Trials Group and ACON

It is estimated that 600 - 1000 Australian gay men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. This study aims to examine the psychological burden of changes to sexual wellbeing, sexual identity and intimate relationships in gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer and their male partners. Sexuality and intimacy are important aspects of an individual's Quality of Life, with changes to sexual functioning, relationships, and sense of self reported to be among the most negative influences on the wellbeing of men with prostate cancer. However, the focus of previous research has been heterosexual men, with gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer being described as an "invisible diversity", or a "hidden population". This has led to a plea for research on the impact of potentially important differences in sexuality, identity, and intimate relationships on gay and bisexual men's experience of prostate cancer, which can be used to inform health education and health promotion, as well as lead to targeted psycho-social interventions.

Health-Related Quality of Life, Psychological Distress, and Sexual Changes Following Prostate Cancer: A Comparison of Gay and Bisexual Men With Heterosexual Men (opens in a new window)

Threat of Sexual Disqualification: The Consequences of Erectile Dysfunction and Other Sexual Changes for Gay and Bisexual Men With Prostate Cancer (opens in a new window)

Sexual and Reproductive health of Migrant and Refugee Women: An international comparison

  • Researchers: Janette Perz, Jane Ussher, Renu Narchal in partnership with Family Planning NSW: Jane Estoesta, Jane Wicks; Community Migrant Resource Centre: Melissa Monteiro; and Simon Fraser University, Vancouver: Marina Morrow
  • Funded by an ARC Linkage Grant ($271,144 and $129,000 from partner organisations)

Sexual health is a key component of women's quality of life, with utilisation of sexual health services associated with positive mental health. However, these services are underutilised by migrant and refugee communities, resulting in negative sexual health outcomes. This project will investigate the experiences and constructions of sexual health for women from a range of recent migrant and refugee communities living in Australia and Canada, in order to understand unmet needs, and inform targeted service provision. This research project uses a multi-layered qualitative approach, which includes focus groups and semi-structured interviews with community interviewers. Data will be analysed through thematic analysis, in-depth group comparisons and case studies. Guidelines for programs of sexual health education and promotion will then be developed, and subjected to a formative evaluation, from the perspective of key stakeholders.

Research report and recommendations PDF, 520.45 KB (opens in a new window)

Publication: Negotiating Discourses of Shame, Secrecy, and Silence: Migrant and Refugee Women’s Experiences of Sexual Embodiment (opens in a new window)

Evaluation of the relative efficacy and mechanisms of a couple based intervention for Premenstrual Syndrome through a randomised control trial using mixed methods

  • Researchers: Jane Ussher, Janette Perz (CI), & Edith Weisberg (PI)
  • Funded by an ARC Discovery Grant ($430,000)

Of 9,689 Australian women recently surveyed nationally, 33% reported moderate or severe premenstrual symptoms (PMS). Whilst relationships have been identified as a significant factor in the experience of premenstrual distress, to date, there has been no systematic description or evaluation of couple-based PMS interventions. This research study will do this, comparing couple-based support to both one-to-one and self-help support, helping health-care providers understand the experience and treatment of PMS in the context of family relationships, thereby reducing PMS, and the physical and psychological distress associated with it. This will lead to improved psychological wellbeing and quality of life for women and their families, a priority area for the ARC.

Download the Self-Help Guide PDF, 289.82 KB (opens in a new window)

Multiple perspectives on sexuality and intimacy post-cancer, leading to the development and evaluation of supportive interventions

  • Researchers: Jane Ussher, Janette Perz, Emilee Gilbert (CI) Gerry Wain, Kendra Sundquist, Gill Batt, Kim Hobbs, Laura Kirsten (PI)
  • Funded by an ARC Linkage Grant ($585,308)

Sexuality and intimacy are key aspects of quality of life detrimentally affected by cancer, resulting in significant reductions in well-being for people with cancer and their partners. However, health professionals rarely address this important health problem, and little is known about the factors which predict difficulties or re-negotiation of sexuality post-cancer. This study will examine the experience and construction of intimacy and sexuality post-cancer, from the perspective of people with cancer, their partners, and health professionals, and elucidate pathways to difficulty or re-negotiation. Based on these findings, programs of targeted couple interventions will be developed, and evaluated in a randomised controlled trial.

Download the latest Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer Self-Help Guide (opens in a new window)