National Health Strategy: Great News For Men?

The Government’s new Men’s Health Strategy shows that Australia continues to lead the world when it comes to improving men’s health. Australia is one of the world’s healthiest societies and ranks in the top 10 for life expectancy worldwide.

Our men’s health sector also punches above its weight and has given the world groundbreaking projects like the Movember Foundation, the Men’s Sheds movement and the MATES In Construction suicide prevention program.

In 2010, Australia became the third country in the world to adopt a National Men’s Health Strategy after Ireland (2008) and Argentina (2009).  The publication of the draft strategy for 2020-2030 renews the nation’s commitment to take collective action to create a healthier future for men and boys.

Yet there is much work still to be done. Men in Australia die six years younger than women on average and are twice as likely as women to die from preventable causes before the age of 75.

The 2010 policy was praised for its focus on the social determinants of men’s health and the importance it placed on building on men’s strengths and valuing the positive roles that men play in society. It was also criticised for:

  • Being too modest in its scope, ambition and impact
  • Poor governance
  • Lack of long-term high-level support
  • An absence of time frames
  • Lack of training for staff

The 2020-2030 Strategy has tackled some of these criticisms and delivers a clear message throughout the strategy: the health service needs to work harder to work for men and boys.

To achieve this, the work we do to improve everyone’s health must address “the structural and systemic barriers to good health” that men face; respond to the “needs and preferences” of men and boys and in simple terms, be more male-friendly.

This reflects the rallying call of the men’s health sector in Australia and around the world over the past twenty years and more. One of our central claims is that men care about their health and will get help when we place more focus on the ways that we give help.

The key, in the language of the new Men’s Health Strategy’s principles for action, is for the health system to “provide services that are male-centred”.

Yet we live in a world where popular gender stereotypes about men, masculinity and men’s health tell us there is something seriously wrong with Aussie blokes. Therefore, it must be men, not the system, that needs to change.

Against this cultural backdrop, the Government’s Draft Men’s Health Strategy presents a bold and optimistic vision of a health service transformed as: “all levels of government develop policies, deliver programs and services and fund initiatives to improve health and wellbeing [that focus] on the unique needs of men and boys [and] significantly improve men’s health”.

So how will this ambitious plan to create a health system that works to improve men and boys’ health become a reality? There are ten aspects of the strategy that are particularly worthy of note, as they both build on (and address the shortcomings) of the 2010 Men’s Health Policy. They are:

  1. It aims to "empower and support men and boys" 
  2. It focuses on the principle of "male-centred services 
  3. It aims to address the structural and systemic barriers to good health
  4. It says a "substantial, long-term budget allocation" is required
  5. It "evidence-based best practice approaches to men's health" 
  6. It advocates for men's health training for GPs, nurses and allied health professionals
  7. It aims to engage men in co-design, delivery, promotion and continuous improvement
  8. It identifies advocacy as a key role of implementation partners
  9. It commits to a National Men's Health Research Strategy 
  10. This time there will be a Governance structure 

Of course, we could always do better and so our article: Men's Health Strategy: A Missed Opportunity highlights 10 areas where we think the Strategy needs to improved. 

HOW TO TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

As the national forum for men's health in Australia, we actively welcome a diverse range of viewpoints on health and gender issues and we encourage respectful discussion between people with differing views. Here are three ways you can tell us what you think about the National Men's Health Strategy:

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.