Healthy Male, formerly Andrology Australia, is calling for a significant in the way society and the health system views fathers ahead of Sunday’s 2020 Father’s Day celebrations.
The organisation has released an advocacy document with seven goals:
- Society recognises and values both parents equally
- Health policy addresses the health and wellbeing of both parents
- The health system supports the proactive engagement of both parents
- Health professionals are willing and able to support men and women
- Both parents are prepared for the transition to parenthood
- Parents who experience loss, distress or are struggling with parenthood receive the care they need
- Practice is evidence-informed and shaped by the lived-experiences of both men and women
“Australian society, and our health system, has not kept pace with the changing needs, expectations, roles and diversity of modern-day families,” says Healthy Male.
“Non-birthing parents, most commonly men, are not systematically engaged or supported from preconception to parenthood.
“They are often treated as secondary to fertility, birthing and parenting processes — welcome but not active-partners.
“Many do not receive the care they need if they are unable to conceive, if they lose a child or if they are struggling with parenthood. Opportunities to prepare them for this major life transition are lost.
“This negatively impacts on the health and wellbeing of all family members, as well as on relationships within families.”
Plus Paternal: a focus on fathers Case for Change is a 20-page document developed in response to the National Men’s Healthy Strategy 2020-2030’s call for a more inclusive approach to parenthood and expansion of maternal and child health infrastructure to include fathers.
Healthy Male endeavoured to more deeply understand the current situation in Australia in relation to fathers.
“We engaged men, health professionals and policy makers to determine what, if anything, needs to change to improve the health and wellbeing of fathers, prospective fathers and their families,” writes Healthy Male CEO Simon von Saldern.
“Not only did we discover a pressing need for change across all levels of the health system and beyond, we found a strong desire for change amongst men and health professionals. The evidence clearly shows that our health system does not proactively engage men as they attempt to, and/or become fathers.”
Advocating for action
The document calls on people to endorse the Case for Change, “to help improve the experiences and outcomes of fathers and their families”.
Healthy Male states that there is no single pathway to fatherhood. While many men have a positive experience, many also experience anxiety, distress and depression. They may feel burdened by additional financial pressure and bewildered by changes in their intimate partner relationship.
While many men have unmet needs and feel excluded by healthy services in the early stages of a pregnancy, postpartum, “Those from priority population groups are likely to face additional barriers in accessing information and appropriate care.”
Case for Change notes how the harmful impact traditional social and gendered norms negatively impact men, such as child-rearing being primarily women’s business, the stereotype for men to be breadwinner and the stronger bond women are assumed to have with their kids.
“These prevailing norms impact on whether men raise concerns or advocate for their own needs, with some men feeling pressure to align with these norms,” says the document.
“Our health system reflects wider society. Norms influence, consciously and unconsciously, how health professionals engage with men and whether they consider engagement to be relevant.
"Norms also translate into workplace policies and attitudes which can inhibit men from taking as active a role as they would like as fathers and partners. The uptake of parental leave remains relatively low and flexible working arrangements are not always accessible to men.
“An integrated, father-inclusive approach to health policies and guidelines would support the consistent care of fathers and potential fathers.”
Ways to change
The Case for Change points out ways change could happen in workplaces, schools, media, private insurers, trade unions, media, health organisations and a range of key sectors, which involve challenging the status quo.
Healthy Male calls for all policies, strategies and guidelines related to reproductive health to “acknowledge the needs of both parents and provide guidance in meeting those needs.”
There would be initiatives to support the care of men, a screening tool for anxiety and depression for new fathers, and routine engagement of men in relation to reproductive health as well as initiatives co-designed with men who have diverse lived experience.
Case for Change suggests ways people can actively support the campaign, such as endorsing it online, and identifying specific opportunities for change within their sphere of influence.
Healthy Male (previously known as Andrology Australia) is a national organisation, established in 2000, that provides easy access to the latest scientific and medical research on male reproductive and sexual health. Find out more.
The Australian Men's Health Forum is celebrating dads ahead of Father's Day on September 6 with a series of articles on fathering and highlighting initiatives that support men and boys.
CHECK OUT THE DAD FILES ON AMHF