Background: Longitudinal studies of women's health often seek to identify predictors of good health. Research has shown that following simple guidelines can halve women's mortality. The ongoing Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health (ALSWH) shows that Australian women are getting better at reducing their smoking and alcohol use, and are generally diligent about attending recommended health screenings, but are becoming less successful at dealing with obesity. There are communities of women who live unusually healthy lives (Rosetans, Seventh-Day Adventists, traditional Japanese women), but their lifestyles are unlikely to be adopted widely. Universal Medicine (UM) is a complementary-to-medicine approach that emphasizes personal empowerment and the importance of menstrual health symptoms.
Objective: This survey investigates whether the approximately 500 women associated with UM exhibit health status significantly above the norm. As part of this investigation, questions for a newly developed menstrual attitudes questionnaire will also be evaluated.
Methods: A quantitative cross-sectional survey of women in a UM cohort was designed with the help of three focus groups of women at three life stages: in menses, peri-menopausal, and menopausal. The menstrual attitudes portion of the survey incorporates the insights of these women regarding female health issues. The survey also includes 41 questions taken from the ALSWH. Focus groups generated additional questions about symptoms experienced and attitudes toward female health issues. ALSWH questions, including a range of health scales like the Short Form 36 (SF-36), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, Perceived Control Scale, Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, and the Multi-Item Summed Score for Perceived Stress, along with questions about experienced major health events, were investigated and incorporated if considered suitable. At the time of publication of this protocol, data collection has been completed.
Results: The validity of the menstrual attitudes questionnaire will be evaluated with Cohen's kappa. ALSWH respondents and UM participants will be compared, using unweighted regression or regression weighted or normalized by age, education, and interest in alternative treatments (to increase comparability), as appropriate. Analyses will determine whether UM-related variables (being a UM participant, length of UM participation, number of UM events attended) are associated with: differences in the number of major health events and health symptoms experienced; SF-36 physical and mental health scores; body mass index; and consumption of alcohol, tobacco, sugar, salt, caffeine, and dairy.
Conclusions: If women in the UM cohort are truly in substantially better health than the norm, further investigations may be worthwhile to see whether UM plays a causal role, and whether the women's practices are generalizable.
International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/7993.
Keywords: ALSWH; SF-36; Universal Medicine; health care costs; menstruation questionnaire; preventive medicine; public health; survey; women’s health.
©Christoph Schnelle, Eunice J Minford, Vanessa McHardy, Jane Keep. Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (http://www.researchprotocols.org), 23.11.2017.