Wednesday 8th March 2023
A unique digital eLearning platform has been developed to address a gaping hole in adolescent and community knowledge, support, and education about the menstrual cycle and common conditions like endometriosis.
The eLearning platform titled “What about me®?” is a result of a 20 months of collaboration between educationalists, clinicians, researchers, focus groups and community to bring a fresh new approach to learning in the real world, using best digital technology practices in eLearning. The resource, funded by a kind grant from the Lindsay Foundation, is unique, engaging, fun, and interactive and demystifies periods, menstrual health, and commonly associated social stigmas.
What about me®? is the next phase of our successful world-leading menstrual health in-schools me® programme, introduced in NZ 1998. Through digital eLearning, we have been able to maximise learning opportunities, eliminate barriers to access, address poor efficacy and research using an in-schools delivery mode, and prioritise the needs of our young people and communities.
The development team of What about me? had inclusivity in mind including content that addresses individual needs from te ao Māori, Pacific, Takatāpui, diverse and disabled world views, with more use of student voice and experience.
Endometriosis is a major public health issue in New Zealand affecting approximately 1 in 10 women and girls and an unknown number of transgenders, non-binary, males. Yet there is little or no priority or enthusiasm in our public health system to address the diagnostic delay of 8.7 years from onset of first symptoms1 and the often-incapacitating symptoms that usually start from an early age and can have a catastrophic impact on quality of life, physical and mental health, and fertility down the track.
Our research demonstrated that 27%2 of our young people miss school every or most months with severe period pain, 71% of under 24-year-olds have bad periods and 1 in 4 people who menstruate have pelvic pain. Studies highlight a significant concerning burden for individuals, their whānau, society, the public health services, and fiscal costs.
“Clinical guidelines all indicate a need to recognise the symptoms early and intervene in a timely manner” says Professor Neil Johnson, a gynaecologist and clinical advisor to the What about me®? resource. “This can be achieved with positive early learning experiences especially given there are no acurate non-invasive diagnostic tests for endometriosis.” He said, “opportunities that ensure young people are well informed and supported, allows them to be actively and positively involved in their menstrual health and wellbeing, now and in the future.”
Deborah Bush MNZM, QSM, Director of What about me®? said “this resource provides the opportunity to celebrate periods positively and respectfully, as Māori traditionally welcomed the arrival of waiwhero (red waters). It provides the latest medical knowledge, including an
ntroduction to the neuroscience of pain and introduces the concept of recognising menstrual symptoms that impact negatively on life, simple ways to improve them, the courage to talk openly and the tools to seek help if necessary. We need to end the shame often associated with periods, and appreciate menstruation as an essential part of the cycle of life.”
“I know of no other resource on the international stage that can even come close to nodding its cap to this most beautiful, empowering and educationally valuable piece of medical performance art,” said Mr Michael East, gynaecologist.
What about me®? launches from its own website @periodhealth and appropriately coincides with International Women’s Day themed as #EmbraceEquity in 2023, and International Endometriosis Awareness month March 2023.
KEY POINTS AT A GLANCE
• What about me®? is the first digital platform for young people and community world-wide
• The menstrual cycle is often associated with taboos, myths and social stigma
• 71% of under 24’s have bad periods
• 27% miss school every or most months with severe period pain
• 1 in 4 have pelvic pain
• 1 in 9 people who menstruate have endometriosis
• Endometriosis starts young – often from a first menstrual period or during the teen years
• 94% of people with endo have comorbidities like IBS, migraines and depression
• 50% + will have fertility issues
• 8.7 years in New Zealand from onset of first symptoms to get a diagnosis of endometriosis.
1. Tewhaiti-Smith J, Semprini A, Bush D, Anderson, A, Eathorne A, Johnson N, et al. An
Aotearoa New Zealand survey of the impact and diagnostic delay for endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain. Scientific Reports. 2022;12(1):4425.
2. Bush D, Brick E, East M, Johnson N, Endometriosis Education in Schools: a New Zealand model examining the impact of an education program in schools n early recognition of symptoms suggesting endometriosis. Aust NZ J Obstet Gynaecol 2017;1–6
Deborah Bush MNZM, QSM Director EPP Coaching (Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain) E: email@example.com
M: 027 2768 576
Michael East, gynaecologist
M: 021 329800
Neil Johnson, gynaecologist (currently in Australia but will try to be available)
M: 027 436 0172
Deborah Bush MNZM QSM Endometriosis New Zealand founder, pelvic pain well health coach
Deborah has had a global influence on the promotion and prevention of endometriosis. She developed the world’s first Menstrual Health and Endometriosis (me®) programme for schools in 1998, which has significantly influenced early recognition of symptoms and timely intervention in adolescents in Aotearoa New Zealand and was endorsed by the World Endometriosis Society (WES).
Deborah co-founded Endometriosis New Zealand in 1985 and led the organisation as CEO until her resignation in 2021. In that time, she developed innovative health initiatives and programmes for schools, workplaces, hospitals and Continuing Medical Education (CME) and support services. She was instrumental in developing a Task Force with the Ministry of Health to improve the diagnosis and management of endometriosis in Aotearoa New Zealand, the outcome of which has been the new Clinical Pathway launched in Parliament in March 2020. Her private practice EPP Coaching and Consulting integrates into four treatment centres offering multi-disciplinary expertise focusing on education, evidence-based lifestyle management options and well-health coaching. She has made a significant contribution to the literature, is an international key note speaker, sits on the World Endometriosis Society Board (WES) and is Founding Principal of the World Endometriosis Organisations (WEO). https://eppcoaching.com