What needs to change in men's health
Helping the grassroots men’s health movement to grow is key to improving the state of men’s health in Australia.
At the opening session of the Men’s Health Connected online gathering on Monday, May 16, Australian Men’s Health Forum CEO Glen Poole laid down the key challenges facing the men’s health sector.
He said the three things the sector needed to focus were to:
build stronger networks and structures
support growth of grassroots men’s health initiatives and
amplify men’s voices in public and political discourse.
“Anything we can do to help it grow faster and stronger is something we need to do as a national body,” Glen said.
Men’s Health Connected is a week-long online gathering which connects leaders, health practitioners, researchers and a variety of groups and individuals involved in men’s health.
Glen pointed out that it had been five years since the Male Health Initiative was launched, and applauded Australia for having a National Men’s Health Strategy.
He acknowledged improvements in men’s health statistics in the last 10 years, namely:
The average age of death for men was now 79.1, up from 78.2
Potentially avoidable death rates had fallen by 10% from 2014-2020
Rates of heart disease death fell 30%
Rates of death by stroke fell more than 25%
Rates of cancer deaths fell nearly 20%
(Rates = per 100,000)
However, 50 men a day died from potentially avoidable deaths. Men accounted for:
4 in 5 heart deaths under 75
3 in 4 suicides
3 in 4 road deaths
96% of workplace deaths
73% of alcohol-induced deaths
7 in 10 homicides
“Closing this health gap would save 7,500 lives a year,” said Glen.
The five biggest men’s health issues were diseases of affluence and ‘deaths of despair’.
Heart disease killed 10,000 men a year and diabetes killed 45 men a week. Suicide killed 45 men a week and death by external causes, such as poisoning, killed 20 men a day, up by 5%.
If there was one thing the health system could do to help improve health outcomes for males, it would be in education.
“If you want to improve men’s health tomorrow, do a better job of educating boys today,” he said.
He also said men needed access to health services that were culturally appropriate and responded to their needs as a man.
“There is something about economic difficulty, linked to men’s role as providers, that impacts men’s health far more profoundly than it does women’s health.”
Glen applauded the growth in the men’s health sector over the past 10 years, in particular an upswell in the number of men’s mental health projects. But while there were more public conversations and fund-raising, he lamented fewer state-based men’s health bodies and lack of state and territory policies.
“Men’s health is not a vote winner. How do we make it a social issue?” he asked.
“Men are told they are taking up too much space but criticised for not talking. We need to get men’s stories out there. Being able to articulate what their needs are in different areas.”