"It is important to provide males with appropriate health services that meet their cultural and gender-specific needs to encourage them to access health services more regularly..."These recommendations are particularly relevant to health services working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, but may also be relevant to other health services seeking to improve accessibility and engagement with males.
Aboriginality and low socio-economic status place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males as the most disadvantaged population group in Australia in terms of physical well-being. The underutilisation of health services by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males is a contributing factor to the poor state of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male health in Australia.
Key Systemic Barriers to Health Service Use:
- General issues - distance to health services, transport, cost, racism, problems with Medicare cards, long waiting times, having to go to hospitals in the city for specialist services and dying away from “country” and other issues (affecting all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people);
- Cultural issues - lack of cultural understanding by health staff, lack of culturally specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical services, language barriers, specific “skin” relationships to clinic staff and others; having to go to hospitals in the city for specialist services and dying away from “country” and other issues (affecting all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Specific male issues - gender-specific access, separate location, male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce, male-specific “places”, clinic or service, specialist male services including counselling/mental health/sexual problems.
Key Recommendations for Improved Access to Health Services:
- A gender-specific and cultural approach that meets the needs of males.
- Having more male health staff (doctors and nurses), male health coordinators, and male counselling programs where possible to support males and to encourage access to health services.
- Extending clinic hours (outside of normal business hours) and displaying male health material.
Key Health Promotion Activities to Encourage Health Service Participation:
- Well Men’s Check Program – aims to facilitate AHWs to conduct health checks on all males over 15 years of age in their community
- Pit Stop Program uses a car analogy and concept of regular maintenance to maintain health.
- Medicare Benefits Scheme(MBS) – Health Assessments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
- Chronic Disease Management(CDM) GP services enable GPs to plan and coordinate the health care of patients with chronic medical conditions, including multidisciplinary, team-based care from a GP and at least two other health or care providers.
- National Bowel Screening program Free bowel cancer screening test kits are provided to all Australians in the year they turn 50, 55, 60 or 65.
- Health promotion in different settings - Taking health promotion activities to where males are and feel more comfortable, rather than expecting them to come to the service, can help encourage males to think about their health. Health promotion activities (eg male health information sessions, display of male health information) can be provided in a range of settings, such as sporting clubs, pubs, local betting shops and other male venues.
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