Dr Kiersten Simmons is leading a study aimed at improving access to sexual health and wellbeing research and care for women aged 40-65 who live in deprived coastal communities in East Sussex and in the UK.
My overarching aim is to address sexual and reproductive ill health in midlife women who live in coastal communities in East Sussex by improving access to relevant healthcare research and services.
I aim to compare access to sexual health and wellbeing research and services for women in deprived versus affluent localities, explore underlying factors for any differences identified, and design workable strategies to increase access where it is most needed.
It is a mixed-methods study, funded by Brighton and Sussex Medical School. I have conducted a systematic review, examining the enablers and barriers to accessing sexual health and wellbeing care for midlife women (aged 40-65) who live in high income countries.
This has helped me to identify the challenges that prevent midlife women from being involved in research and accessing care, and the intersecting disadvantage of being a midlife woman and belonging to a marginalised group due to factors such as ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality and socio-economic status. The remaining parts of my project will be a qualitative study and an ecological study.
The qualitative element of my research will give women a voice: we will identify barriers and enablers to being involved in research and accessing local sexual health and wellbeing services within their localities together. By tackling important aspects of the health of women, and the health disparities within these areas, we aim to contribute to raising standards of health in the county.
The ecological study is evolving due to the difficulty with accessing data. I hope to compare HIV and sexually transmitted infection screening and rates, cervical screening, access to menopause care, sexual dysfunction care and incontinence care between women living in the most deprived and least deprived areas in East Sussex.
I will soon start recruiting for the qualitative part of my project, and will be looking for women aged 40-65, and their health and social care providers (people who provide care sexual health and wellbeing care for, or direct women to, these services e.g., health care
professionals, researchers, NGO/ charity workers) to take part in focus groups and in-depth interviews.
The first focus groups will be looking at how to make it easier for midlife women to be involved in sexual health and wellbeing research. The next step will be focus groups and interviews looking at how we can improve access to sexual health and wellbeing services.
To get involved/ find out more, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @KJGSimmons.