Machismo a barrier in men’s health

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon.

The AMA has called for a “major overhaul” of Government policy on men’s health, saying a full new strategy is needed

AMA president Dr Michael Gannon launched the organisation’s Position Statement on Men’s Health 2018 today, and said that while the Government’s National Male Health Policy has been in place for almost a decade, men still face barriers to accessing health care.

“Australian men enjoy relatively good health outcomes, but they still have a shorter life expectancy than Australian women, and have a higher mortality rate for most major causes of premature death,” Dr Gannon said.

“Men are known to have greater vulnerability to various health disorders across their lifespan, they are more likely than women to experience serious health problems, and they have higher rates of substance abuse, suicide, and mental health problems.

“These barriers are caused, in the main, because Australian men are less likely to seek treatment from a general practitioner or other health professional, and are less likely to have in place the supports and social connections needed when they experience physical and mental health problems.

“Male suicide in Australia has reached tragically high levels, and men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour.”

Dr Gannon said that a National Men’s Health Strategy, appropriately funded and implemented, is needed to deliver a cohesive platform for the improvement of male health service access and men’s health outcomes, without taking funding away from existing women’s and children’s health strategies.

He later told ABC News Radio’s Glen Bartholomew that cultural change would need to form part of such a strategy.

“The reality is that whether it’s to discuss family planning contraception or whether it’s to submit themselves for cervical cancer screening, women have got much better habits when it comes to making regular appointments to see their GP,” he said.

Part of this is “Australian male machismo,” he said, which makes it harder for men to acknowledge health problems, particularly in regard to mental health.

“Australian men live shorter lives,” he told Mr Bartholomew. They live less healthy lives. They’re more likely to be injured at work or elsewhere.

“They’re far more likely to suicide. They’ve got lower cancer survival rates. They’re more likely to have problems with drugs of addiction and alcohol.

“Doesn’t paint a very pretty picture, does it? But despite the fact that at least a majority of women will undergo an event which is probably the most dangerous health event in their life —being called their pregnancy —and men don’t have an acute event like that, overall, the picture is one of half our population not being as good at accessing preventive health services.”

Men’s risk-taking behaviour is also a problem, he said.

Australia needs to normalise the concept that men access health professionals, Dr Gannon said.

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