Why Men’s Health Week is Only The First Step to Improving the Health of Aussie Blokes

Men's health on a blackboard with a stethoscope

We’ve just celebrated Men’s Health Week. It’s an important initiative that shines the spotlight on men’s health issues and encourages men to take charge of their health and wellbeing. It’s clear that men face different health issues to women and we blokes also have different needs. For starters, we live five years less on average compared to women. This statistic alone is worrying.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Leading Causes of Death by Gender (2012) shows that the death rate from the main causes of death is usually higher for men than women. In fact, more men die from heart disease, trachea and lung cancer, chronic lower lung disease, colon cancer, leukaemia, diabetes and suicide. Men also experience higher rates of addiction, violence and crime.

Prioritising measures to improve men’s health outcomes is crucial. The National Male Health Policy released in 2010 identified six key areas to focus on. These include optimal health outcomes for men, health equity between population groups of males, improved health for males at different life stages, a focus on preventive health for males, building a strong evidence base on male health and improved access to health care for males. You can see that the focus must be on wellness and not just illness.

What can be done?

It’s clear that men need to start reaching out and discussing their health with their partners, friends and health professionals. The first point of contact should be the GP. The GP is like the head coach of a football club as he/she oversees the general progress of the patient and liaises with other health professionals in the patient’s support network.

Men should have annual health checks. Just like we take our car to get regularly serviced, it is crucial that we get a regular service too. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers can often be picked up in their early stages when treatment is almost always more effective.

In addition, we need health ambassadors to promote men’s health issues. Governments should consider appointing a Men’s Health Minister to oversee community-based projects and national initiatives aimed at improving the lives and health of Aussie men. If men had role models or leaders effectively working in this space, it would encourage men to be more proactive with their health.

Finally, it’s all well and good celebrating Men’s Health Week on an annual basis, but that still leaves 51 weeks of the year when men’s health issues are out of the limelight. And that’s got to change! Let’s get our act together, fellas.

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