Earlier this month, the Australian Men's Health Forum was approached by EMG GOLD, a magazine for senior pharmaceutical executives, which has a particular focus on educating Medical Affairs (MA) and marketing professionals in the industry.
EMG asked us to contribute to an article on "The Gender Health Gap" and provide our insights on how pharmaceutical and medical affairs teams can better encourage male patients to engage in their own health". This is what we said:
Good health is a resource that is unevenly distributed among different populations. In most modern economies, men have poorer health than women, on average, because they have less access to health-giving resources and greater exposure to health risks than women.
Men on average tend to experience higher rates of chronic disease at an earlier age such as heart disease, diabetes and most cancers. Men's risk of disease is shaped by factors such as education, job status, relationship status, class, race and adverse childhood experiences.
Some of the individual factors that increase men's risk of these conditions include smoking, drinking, diet, weight and physical inactivity.
This is a big challenge for healthcare providers to tackle so it's important to focus on the areas where we can make a difference.
Experience shows that the key action healthcare providers can take to increase men's access to health-giving services is to consider how they can make their services more male friendly.
One of the primary achievements of the men’s health sector here in Australia and around the world has been to demonstrate the positive impact of changing the way health services are delivered to men.
Healthcare services are generally better at helping women than helping men. Male-friendly approaches shift the focus from trying to make men take better care of their health, to making health services take better care of men.
This principle is steadily making its way into public policy. Australia's National Men’s Health Strategy (2020-2030), for example, places the onus on the health system to “provide male-centred information, programs and services that consciously consider the needs and preferences of men”.
One example of this approach in action is Men’s Health Downunder, a Canberra-based pharmacy network established in 2013 to provide men and their partners with professional expertise about specific men’s health issues without any embarrassment or privacy concerns.
Men’s Health Downunder clinics are tailored to men: they do not stock anything that isn’t health-related, and the space is set up to ensure men are comfortable.
Staff are highly skilled in men’s health and go beyond the simple supply of medication, optimising therapies for each patient to get the best outcomes.
To help healthcare providers take the first steps towards engaging more effectively with men, the Australian Men's Health Forum has published a free 10-Step Guide to Developing Male-Friendly Health Services.