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Along with the birthday cards marking the achievement of that significant half century, women reaching the age of 50 in Bradford next year could also find a special invitation on their doormat.

The Pennell Initiative on Women's Health hopes to pilot a three-month project in the city which will offer a health and lifestyle consultation to women at or around their 50th birthday, explains Eva Lambert, Pennell's chief executive.

'Fifty seems to be a time in most women's lives when they take stock - of finances, of retirement plans, of family issues,' says Ms Lambert. 'Why not add health to this?'

Women have an average life expectancy of 79 years, so at 50 they have, potentially, another 30 years - a third of their lives - still ahead, she adds.

'Pennell would like women to be given all the information they need on the health issues they face in middle and old age, together with advice on what they can do for themselves, to make sure the next 30 years of their lives are still healthy.'

The Pennell Initiative was launched last year by Dame Rennie Fritchie - now commissioner for public appointments and former NHS regional chair - and colleagues, including Angela Schofield, general manager of Poole Bay primary care group.

Its aim is to raise awareness and address the issues that impact on the health of the 12 million women aged 45 to 105 and beyond - more than a fifth of the UK population.

'As women get older they become increasingly disadvantaged and invisible,' says Ms Lambert, former chief executive of Hudderfield trust. 'We want to make sure they remain active and participative.'

The Bradford project needs to attract£65,000 in funding to get off the ground and Pennell is seeking partners. Bradford council has already expressed keen interest in involving its staff - it employs almost 10,000 women aged over 50 - as has another big local employer, the Yorkshire Building Society.

The health/lifestyle consultation would be carried out by trained staff. A consultant obstetrician/ gynaecologist and menopause nurse specialists at Bradford Hospitals trust, together with some local GPs, have indicated a willingness to do this.

Each half-hour consultation would, preferably, take place in the community rather than on healthcare premises, says Ms Lambert.

'It would cover family and personal health history, current health status, lifestyle factors and social activities and networks. The menopause is a highly significant time in the life of women about which there is a considerable amount of confusion.'

Ms Lambert believes such consultations would have real benefits. 'One of the things we encounter whenever we talk to women of this age is that they usually say they have a list of things they want to talk to their GP about. But when they see their GP, they end up talking about just one of the issues because they feel their GP is too busy.

'We want to provide a means of addressing all the issues in an holistic way and to try to help women to help themselves as much as possible.'

Once the Bradford project is completed, the intention is to evaluate its outcomes, Ms Lambert says. 'We will go back six months after the consultations to interview a cross section of the women to see what benefits may have accrued as a result.'

Bradford will be a good area in which to carry out the pilot, she adds, as it should be possible to reach some of the women in the large ethnic minority populations who do not normally use health services.

Pennell has other projects in the pipeline, including looking at ways of addressing the social isolation of women - 59 per cent of those over 79 live alone - a guide for women going through an early menopause and a look at occupational health services.

There is a particular gap in knowledge in the area of what happens to women after the menopause, says Ms Lambert. Studies which focus on women tend to focus largely on pregnancy and childbirth.

She says: 'If women in general have been invisible in health research, limited to the status only of bearers of the next generation, the older women whose child bearing years have passed become almost totally invisible.'