Informing the men's health decision-makers
MHIRC supports Men's Health Coordinators across the state. It has been involved in the development and promulgation of the NSW Health Men's Health Plan.
One important way forward in this work is encouraging all Local Health Districts to implement the plan and be able to show that they are engaged with the health of males across the life course. This means supporting initiatives and research which enhance the health of boys, of fathers (especially new dads), gay men and older men (particularly in retirement).
MHIRC is also proud to have been able to work in a modest way alongside some programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males, clearly one of the most disadvantaged populations in our society.
The way that health services are actually executed and delivered into the community starts with health policy. A policy informs the priorities about how health is viewed and therefore how it is categorised and delivered into the community via health services.
For the first time, a National Male Health Policy
In May 2010, the Federal Government released the first Australian National Male Health Policy (opens in a new window), an important turning point in male health because it began to view men's health in terms of the strengths of Australian men, rather than adopting an approach that solely attempted to reduce negative behaviours or focused on medical aspects of health alone.
The Policy broke new ground by discussing the idea of 'male-friendly' health services.
In a few succinct lines, the National Men's Health Policy's first priority area covered an approach to men's health that began to consider the life context of men and how that impacts their health:
Optimal health outcomes for males–Promote recognition of the valuable roles males play in family and community life, develop policies that specifically consider male health, and modify health programs to improve the health and wellbeing of males and particularly those with the poorest health outcomes. (Department of Health and Ageing, 2010)
It is of considerable importance that this perspective, that of the SDOH, is the one proposed as a framework for the national longitudinal study of male health which has resulted from the Policy.
MHIRC played an important role in advising development and implementation of the National Male Health Policy by advocating and pushing for inclusion of a social approach that actively endorses the Social Determinants of Health:
The importance of the social determinants of health, particularly the need to improve the educational attainment of boys, was consistently raised throughout the Policy consultation process. Professor John Macdonald has proposed a 'social determinants of health' approach as a framework for conceptualising male health policy and service planning. He argues that factors such as social gradient, stress, employment and social support provide context for male lives that should be taken into account by health services when males present for health care. (Australian Government Social Determinants and Key Actions Supporting Male Health, 2010)
A New South Wales Focus
The release of the 2009-2012 Men's Health Plan (opens in a new window) by the NSW Department of Health set in place specific actions and priorities that would further men's health in New South Wales. The plan takes a very holistic and well-balanced approach to male health, with a particular focus on managing the health of marginalised males.
The Plan set out five Priorities for Action against which male health programs would be implemented. These five priorities are:
- More accessible, appropriate health care for men
- Better cancer awareness, early detection and intervention
- More effective health messages for men (less obesity, less smoking, less risky drinking and less unsafe sex)
- Better mental health and wellbeing
- Better prepared, more involved fathers
The current 2009-2012 Plan built upon the preceding plan titled 'Moving Forwards In Men's Health' which was released in 1999 by Health Minister Craig Knowles and was the first such initiative in the country.
Supporting Health Service Implementation
As part of its partnership with NSW Health and the directives agreed in the 2009-2012 Men's Health Plan, MHIRC works alongside the Men's Health Coordinators (MHCs) Network inside the Local Health Districts of NSW. The MHCs advise and promote men's health programs inside the health system and the network meets twice yearly to define tactics and actions that will improve the access of males to health services.