"The health of Australian males can be improved through a strong partnership between patient, doctor and other health care professionals..."
Men’s health attitudes and behaviours, and health outcomes, are the result of a complex interaction of factors including age, education, income, employment, upbringing, and the availability, and type and location of health services that can be accessed.
It has been suggested that the Aussie male is stoic and often puts the health and wellbeing needs of women and children before his own needs and this has been seen as the reason for the lower use of health services by males.
The ‘traditional’ stereotype of a strong self-reliant male has been seen by some as preventing some males seeking medical help when they are unwell, or having regular health checks, for fear of being seen as ‘weak’. But the recently released National Male Health Policy does point out that we need to work harder to make our health, welfare and community sectors more men friendly as this could be a large part of the problem of men accessing services less than women.
It’s important for men to develop and maintain a good working relationship with their GP and many GPs today are becoming more interested in how to effectively engage men and adapt their practices to be more men friendly.
We spent many decades criticising men for not going to the doctors, but when they did they were often confronted by posters on Breast Cancer, Pap Smears and other female health issues and, if they were really lucky, they had a two year old “Women’s Weekly” to read while they waited. Not what I call “men friendly”. But recent research shows that doctors are providing a range of men’s health resources and magazines for men in their waiting rooms and devising a recall system in the practice specifically for men’s health checks. Many doctors are also providing out of hours consultations so men can access health services outside of working hours.
Men often wonder what things they need to tell their doctor or what might be more indicative of a larger problem. Women are more familiar with the health system as they spend more time with doctors discussing their problems and children’s issues. So men are not meant to naturally know how best to get on with their doctor. Men need a general practitioner who provides care that is scientific, considerate and compassionate. It is important to men that they stay in control of their health by fully understanding the nature of any health problem that they have and the mechanisms and potential hazards of treatments or side effects of drugs. Men should be encouraged to ask lots of questions or request more consultations for complicated problems.
One of the key concepts workers in the men’s health area are trying to develop with men is the importance of having a long term health plan developed in consultation with their GP. Most men have a maintenance plan for their cars or their computers so they can see the sense in developing a health plan to increase their chances of successfully maintaining a long and healthy life.
We advise men to maintain a good working relationship with their doctor by being as open as you can be and presenting all information in a way that the doctor can use effectively. Many men have been raised to be self-reliant and to conceal weakness and pain as they think showing and talking about this is unmanly. Men need to be reminded that talking about all symptoms and feelings and providing the doctor with accurate pain levels is the sensible way to go. Often men can minimise their symptoms making it harder for a doctor to effectively assess and treat.
Men should be encouraged to present a detailed and well organised account of symptoms when visiting the doctor and do some research with their family members to develop a family medical history for their doctor to consider. Men should also work on developing an open and trusting relationship with their doctor and ask questions about diagnosis and treatment options.
The health of Australian males clearly needs to be improved and the basis for improvement can be a health care plan based on a strong partnership between patient, doctor and other health care professionals.
Greg Millan - Men's Health Consultant
Greg Millan is one of Australia’s leading experts on men’s health and wellbeing with over 19 years' experience in the men’s health promotion area. He has developed and implemented many health programs, professional training sessions, community events and resources covering a wide range of male health and wellbeing issues. Greg is a social work trained health educator with 30 years' of experience in working for Government, non-government organisations and the private sector.
Greg's website is www.menshealthservices.com.au