Will the WA Labor Government and the WA Liberal Party Stand By Their Commitment to Man Up, Stand Up and Sign Up to a WA Male Health Policy?
We as a progressive society in Australia are well and truly into another year, as we edge closer to the big 2020. Just like the years before, we invest in new research and technology, economies, trade ventures and manufacturing. We assess where communities are on a socioeconomic scale, equity and justice, and how well we are tracking against social determinants of health. Unsurprisingly, addressing men’s health remains a challenge for us.
We know the health of Australian men are broadly addressed in five different population groups: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, remoteness, socioeconomic disadvantage, region of birth and age. Over the past ten years, statistics across these areas have consistently reflected the health of significant numbers of men and boys in Australia is far worse than it could, or even should be.
The change in approach – away from a medical and behavioural focus – is an important step forward because it considers the social determinants of health, that is, those factors that shape a person’s health status from before birth and right through life.
While this should be obvious, it has taken a long time for policymakers to recognise it, and to effectively tackle the problems that result in poorer health outcomes for men and boys, whether it’s because of cancer, suicide, stroke, accidents, or any of the many other causes of earlier male mortality. We know the health problems faced by Indigenous Australians are well-reported and they shed much-needed light on the numerous, cumulative factors that result in life expectancies of a full 11 years less than their non-Indigenous counterparts.
Another area of men’s health, which has gained some traction across service providers, is mental health. Male mental health is faring badly – suicide is among the top causes of male death with an average of six male suicides every day in Australia.
Indeed we, as a society, have an obligation to advocate for greater political attention and government funding towards policy in addressing all the social, biological and physical environments of boys’ and men’s lives, to effectively improve their health and well-being.
The establishment of the National Male Health Policy in 2010 was a good start, but there’s a clear need to move away from the emphasis on the medical approach of end-stage diseases and the focus on behaviour by providing education and support, raising awareness and providing greater confidence for men and boys to talk about their health.
In WA, there is still a pressing need for a state-based Men’s Health and Wellbeing Policy. There is an alarming gap in the health and wellbeing of WA men, particularly high-risk male population sub-groups, and males in rural and remote areas. WA men have distinct and diverse health and wellbeing challenges that occur in the context of a varied and expansive state, therefore requiring a unique response. It is futile having a National Male Health Policy with no considered, integrated and collaborative approach to its commitment and implementation on a state level – one that is visible, shared and embraced by whole-of-government and all service delivery community organisations.
To this end, MHWWA has been actively advocating for a WA Male Health and Wellbeing Policy which will provide the framework and foundation to drive an evidence-based, targeted, adequately funded, coordinated, and collaborative response to this critical acute health gap nuanced specifically for WA. We have had a successful social media campaign, Man Up, Stand Up, Sign Up to a WA Male health and Wellbeing Policy in the weeks leading up to the state election, and have successfully received written confirmation from both political parties of their commitment to the development of such a policy.
Now that the election is over, our work has only just begun. MHWWA remains steadfast and focused on ensuring that WA men will receive the bipartisan support and commitment in the development and implementation of this policy.
WA will benefit from a considered integrated approach to male health across our various current health policies and strategies, including the National Male Health Policy 2010; WA Health Strategic Intent 2015-2020; WA Health Promotion Strategic Framework 2017–2021; WA Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Services Plan 2015 – 2025; the WA Women’s Health Strategy 2013-2017; and the WA Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Framework 2015-2030. By having an overarching Men’s Health and Wellbeing Policy in WA, we will have a consolidated and focused approach to addressing current gaps and barriers to men’s health education and access.
Dr Simon H Yam
MHWWA Interim CEO
Men’s Health Week 2017
Men’s Health Week will be held from 12 June to 18 June 2017. The theme for this year is Healthy Body – Health Mind: Keeping the Balance. Men’s Health and Wellbeing WA will once again look at holding an event during this week to help promote the importance of health and wellbeing for males in the WA community. For more information go to the Men’s Health Week website.
Mental Health Week 2017
Men’s Health and Wellbeing WA sit on the Steering Committee for Mental Health Week in WA and attend a number of their key events throughout the week to focus on males and mental health. Planning has commenced for Mental Health Week 2017 with a number of events already on the schedule. Check it all out at the WAAMH website.
Australian Men’s Health Forum
Our national peak body – the Australian Men’s Health Forum (AMHF) continue to advocate for men’s health and wellbeing at the national level and have tried some crowd funding to support a suicide prevention initiative. Check it all out at the AMHF website.
Also check out these links:
- Sex and anti-ageing myths fuel testosterone overuse: http://www.abc.net.au/health/features/stories/2015/04/21/4220829.htm
- Quiz: Health facts every man should know: http://www.abc.net.au/health/quizzestools/quizzes/2014/06/12/4024018.htm
- By boosting innate immunity, researchers eradicate aggressive prostate cancer in mice: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170308162158.htm
- The Bridge – Mens Mental Health campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C6XV6CNEjs