In 2005, the Australian Medical association (AMA) prepared a position paper which discussed in detail some of the major challenges confronting men’s health (O’Kane et al., 2008). In the position paper, the AMA clearly outlined the need for particular subgroups to be accorded greater attention by policy-makers and healthcare workers aimed at assisting them to meet their most basic health needs.
Available literature reveals that men suffer more mental strain, alcohol and substance dependency, obesity, workplace-related accidents, and physical inactivity (Schofield, 2008).
In addition, men are more exposed to all the major risk dynamics for many of the chronic ailments widespread in Australia (O’Kane et al., 2008), thus the need to develop a holistic commonwealth policy on men’s health aimed at addressing the above health issues.
The Australian government is yet to fully formalize a national policy on men’s health despite renewed commitment towards its development by consecutive governments (Woods, 2005). Such a policy, however, is long overdue since available literature has demonstrated the unique health needs that men face.
The main objective of enacting this policy, according to Schofield (2008), would be to establish a framework that would allow stakeholders to take a unique approach to interventions aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of men of different ages, education, family, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds (Woods, 2005).
The state and importance of men’s health, globally, is a weighty public health concern.
In spite of the pressure coming from the WHO that all state-wide health policies should take into consideration the unique needs of both men and women through the formalization and enactment of ‘gender mainstreaming’, and enhanced attention to men’s health (Smith et al., 2009), Australia is yet to implement gendered policy initiatives towards the same.
According to the authors, “the absence of men’s health policies…has severely limited the capacity to develop well-coordinated national programmes that meet the health needs of men and their families” (p. 427).
Currently, the need to develop a holistic nation-wide policy on men’s health is becoming clearer due to a myriad of problems facing men, including higher mortality rates, behavioral factors related to disease, injury, and drug dependence, and the perceived men’s disinclination to seek health assistance (Smith et al., 2009).
Various stakeholders, including the popular press, have reacted to men’s health problems by assuming a neo-liberal perspective that persuades men, at an individual level, to demonstrate greater responsibility with respect to their own health by valorizing specific hegemonic masculine attributes such as risk taking and sexual potency with the aim to advance a conformist reflection of what the ‘healthy male body’ should constitute (Smith et al., 2009).
However, such simplistic conceptions are not effective in dealing with the various health challenges confronting men.
Whose Needs are Identified and Targeted?
The establishment of this policy would certainly aim to offer practical solutions to the many health needs affecting men. According to Smith et al, (2009), many men are faced with gendered inequalities when they endeavor to access and use existing health services.
The authors note that “…the health care system has seldom paid specific attention to how the social construction of masculinity…influences men’s interaction with health services” (p. 428).
Consequently, by focusing on gender and health equity through the implementation of a policy on men’s health to work in tandem with existing health policies, an opportunity exists to reposition men’s health in a broader and more inclusive discussion in relation to the physical, social, economic, ecological and biological determinants of health (Smith et al., 2009).
Rights & Interests of Stakeholders
Existing literature advocating for the establishment of a policy on men’s health in Australia have clearly identified and discussed the rights and interests of all the stakeholders that this policy would benefit.
For instance, while Woods (2005) takes cognizance of the fact that such a policy should holistically incorporate the health needs of all men, he is specific on the fact that males from more disadvantaged socioeconomic situations are confronted more by arising health problems (see appendix 1 & 2).
O’Kane et al (2008) opines that rural Australian men have a deep interest in the development of such a policy due to the many health barriers they encounter, including lack of willpower, inadequate health information, varying family support, inadequate physical exercises, and unavailability of healthy foods, among others. Boys and teenagers are also interested parties.
Crawshaw & Smith (2009) suggests that the government is also an interested party by virtue of fulfilling the health needs of men and maintaining a healthy labor force. In addition, the government is required to fund the implementation process.
It should be the primary objective of this policy to extend avenues through which the health rights of the above mentioned stakeholders are met in a holistic way (Smith et al., 2009) and, as such, there is no probability of stakeholders contesting their rights or interests at an individual level.
Strategies for Addressing the Problems
Various scholars have developed suggestions and strategies that can effectively ensure a coherent approach towards managing a multiplicity of health problems facing men. Some strategies sampled by Smith et al (2009) and O’Kane et al (2008) include:
- Developing and implementing platforms that will ensure health services are more accessible, relevant, efficient, and appropriate for men.
- Developing compassionate and healthy environments. Literature demonstrates that most men shy away from seeking health services due to social orientations (Woods, 2005);
- Developing frameworks and procedures that would address the challenges and issues that have the most effect on the health of men, especially on the antecedents of undesired physical and mental health; and
- Planning and undertaking health support, advocacy, and promotion through comprehensive interventions aimed at reaching a wider population of males.
Linkage of Identified Needs and the Rights/Interests of Stakeholders
According to Knapp et al (2007), the success of any policy initiative largely depends on its capacity to meet the needs of interested parties. Through the strategies outlined above, the policy on men’s health in Australia will effectively link the identified needs to the interests projected by various stakeholders.
For example, the development of platforms to ensure health services are more accessible and appropriate to men will link the needs of the socially and economically deprived Australian men with their basic right of accessing quality and affordable healthcare.
Also, the needs of the Australian rural farmer to access adequate information regarding health issues will be met by initiating adequate methodologies for health service delivery. It is imperative to note that needs and interests inevitably change over the long-term, hence the need to carry out continuous evaluations of the policy (Knapp et al., 2007).
Effectiveness of the policy
The policy will be effective in addressing the health problems affecting men. Crawshaw & Smith (2009) argues that the male population is affected, and is indeed vulnerable to many health complications that may be quantified through the social determinants of health.
This policy will provide a solid foundation for gender equity in accessing and using health services in addition to focusing on preventing the many issues that continue to put men at risk (Smith et al, 2009).
There are indications the effort to address men’s health problems may cause an outcry from advocates of the policy of women’s health mainly in terms of resource allocation. However, both policies must move away from competing against each other since their primary objective is to alleviate the health problems affecting the population.
List of References
Edgar, D (1999). Calling for the Absent Male. Australian Family Physician, Volume 28, Issue 8, p. 797-799.
Knapp, M., McDaid, D., Mossialos, E., & Thornicroft, G. (2007). Mental Health Policy and Practice across Europe. New York, NY: Open University Press.
O’Kane, G.M., Craig, P., Black, D., & Thorpe, C (2008). The Riverana Men’s Study: Rural Men’s Barriers to Healthy Lifestyle Habits. International Journal of Men’s Health, Volume 7, Issue 3, p 237-234.
Schofield, T (2008). Gender & Health Inequities: What are they and what can we do about them. Australian Journal of Social Issues, Volume 43, Issue 1, p. 139-157.
Smith, J.A., White, A.K., Richardson, N., Robertson, S., & Ward, M (2009). The Men’s Health Policy Contexts in Australia, the UK and Ireland: Advancement or Abandonment. Critical Public Health, Volume 19, Issue 3-4, P. 427-440.
Williams, R., Robertson, S., & Hewison, A (2009). Men’s Health, Inequities and Policy: Contradictions, Masculinities and Public Health in England. Critical Public Health, Volume 19, Issue 3-4, p. 475-488.
Woods, M (2005). Dying for a Policy – Men’s & Boys Health in Australia. NMHC. Web.
Appendix 1: Australia Age-Standardized Mortality Rates, by Sex, 1998-2000
|Deaths per 100,000||Male||Female||% Difference|
Source: Woods (2005)
Appendix 2: “Age-Standardized Mortality Rates for All Causes, for the least and Most Socio-economically Disadvantaged Areas of Australia”, 1998-2000
|Deaths per 100,000||Least Disadvantaged||Most Disadvantaged||% Difference||Least Disadvantaged||Most disadvantaged||% Difference|
Source: Woods (2005)