Students at independent schools across New England had access to greater education around Endometriosis and pelvic pain recently.
Run by the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia, the Periods, Pain and Endometriosis Program (PPEP) Talk Schools Program is a government-funded, dedicated program to support teenagers who suffer from severe period pain and endometriosis as well as educate their peers.
The pilot program was launched in South Australia three years ago and is funded by the Federal Government Department of Health.
Co-funding is sought from each state and territory and the curriculum-linked health and wellbeing education program, for all students in Year 10, is presented in secondary schools across government, Catholic and independent sectors in most states.
The program began in February in New South Wales launching in Albury, then toured the Northern Rivers. However, as the NSW Government has not yet signed up, it is currently only available for independent schools.
"It's a national program and the states are meant to match the federal funding, but the New South Wales State Government is the only state that hasn't come on board yet so we're actually not allowed to go into government schools," said PPEP clinical educator Polly Levinson.
Ms Levinson is a women's health physiotherapist who worked for 9 years at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney before joining the program.
She says education is needed for both teens and their families about what is an acceptable level of pelvic pain because most period pain has historically been 'normalised' as something to be endured.
"We help teens to recognise what is 'normal' and then give them strategies to better manage pain, and advise them when and where to seek further help.
"We've found that one in five Australian teens who have a period are missing school because of severe pain."
Ms Levinson said there are five different types of pain and if someone has strong pain for three or more days while they are bleeding they should see their GP.
The program offers the latest in modern knowledge and the new neuroscience of pain to Australian teens in a one-hour positive, fun, educational and interactive program discussing period pain, pelvic pain and endometriosis.
Ms Levinson visited Holy Trinity in Inverell, then TAS, NEGS and PLC in Armidale last week.
Armidale PLC Head of Senior School, Mr Mitchell Clendinning said PLC was 'keen to partake' in the program.
"We consider it important to provide girls opportunities to learn about their health and wellbeing in a safe and supportive environment," Mr Clendinning said.
"It provided the girls with an opportunity to ask follow up questions and to access resources and it also aligned nicely with the curriculum.
"The girls found Polly's presentation informative and fun, and we appreciate that a regional tour was included as part of the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia's itinerary."
According to Ms Levinson, 100 per cent of schools that have taken part in the program have asked for it to return the following year.
"I am hoping the NSW government co-funds the program in the near future so that I can come back in 2023 and also visit public schools across New England," she said.
And while pelvic pain and endometriosis are gaining greater awareness, Ms Levinson said the impact these conditions have on an estimated 700,000 Australians remained largely misunderstood.
"Endometriosis is a chronic disease that may cause severe pain and infertility, Ms Levinson said.
"The disease has variable presentation and compromises the education, career paths, social growth and productivity of women and girls in Australia.
"There is no cure."
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