International Men’s Health Week 2013

Australia joins other countries in celebrating International Men’s Health Week every year in the second week of June.
This year between the 10th and 16th of June many health and community organizations will be joining the campaign to try and highlight the dismal state of male health in Australia, to encourage individuals to be more proactive in protecting their health and to lobby government and non-government organizations to expand policies and funding for men’s health.
Longtime leaders in promotion of men’s health the University of Western Sydney Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre are again at the forefront of this years efforts and a browse through their Men’s Health Week Website is highly recommended.
Importantly the Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre are again focusing more on the social determinants of male health, education, social connection, secure employment, positive role models, male friendly services and mutual respect, rather then the orthodox fixation on the medical model and specific disease risk factors such as smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure etc.
This is in recognition that existing health services are pretty good at dealing with specific risk factors but it is necessary to firstly get men to seek advice and to do so they need to understand and value their health. This of value derives from their male identity and is embedded in their family, social, employment and community environments.  Part of that environment for some involves one or more of the many misandirc and male-devaluing elements repeated highlighted here on AVFM. The devaluation of family, fatherhood and the gender biased treatment of men during separation, divorce and by the child support system being linked with a 10-fold increase in the male suicide rate in this group is but one well-known example.
The Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre website also has some posters and fact sheets to download and print and might I suggest you do so, hang them in your workplaces and use them to start a discussion around men’s health.
Andrology Australia is our nations peak organization focused on promoting men’s reproductive and sexual health, and longtime supporters of Men’s Health Week.  Impairment of sexual function may be the first warning of a more serious problem, for example declining libido may precede overt depression and erectile dysfunction often alerts the physician to occult vascular disease and the risk of heart attach or stroke.
Whilst fewer men then women experience disabling symptoms due to age related hormonal deficiency, those men that do (about 1 in 200) can benefit greatly from hormone (testosterone) replacement.  Information and education regarding prostate cancer and prostate conditions should be as available and accessible as that for breast cancer.  Andrology Australia has been instrumental in spreading this information is a simplified form to men helping them to make informed decisions regarding an often complex and confusing area.  The are many valuable resources on their website including comprehensive downloadable booklets on common reproductive health issues.
Regrettably one of the most curable of all cancers, testicular cancer, which predominantly affects adolescent and young males, is still hardly spoken of.  This coupled with the demonization of male sexuality and genitalia leads to unnecessary deaths of young men too embarrassed to seek advice, such as this recent tragic example.
This year the Australian Men’s Shed Association is also promoting men’s health week with their “Spanner in the works” campaign.  Expanding on the convenient stereotype of men’s interest in machines and tinkering with them, key male health issues are linked by analogy to a motor vehicle’s systems and components.
The men’s sheds team have collected together a selection of screening tools suitable for screening to identify potential problems in these systems, and will be providing free health checks at selected locations and times.  Many Men’s Shed’s are also organizing men’s health week educational events and presentations.
The Men’s Sheds organization is a uniquely Australian institution that has garnered widespread community and government support since it’s humble beginnings more than a decade ago. Initially aimed at maintaining male friendship and connectedness for post retirement men, the organization is increasingly attracting young men and boys who can benefit from the experience and wisdom of the older ones and visa versa.  The local groups then often become involved in diverse ways in supporting other community initiatives.  Their brief introductory video is worth viewing and if you can tolerate it their there is a long version replete with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson spruiking how wonderful her misandric EMILY’s list dominant government is in supporting men.
One of the great voids of men’s health promotion involves the all too prevalent area of mental health.  The health consequences of overt and subliminal society wide misandry should not be underestimated and are reflected most clearly in the male suicide rates across the globe.  Nothing signifies more the present-day inculcated worthlessness and disposability men feel, than the frequency with which their struggle for identity and purpose in life ends in a decision to no longer exist.
Although more prominent males are coming forward and publically sharing their experience with depression, suicide often does not occur in the context of established mental health disorders but is reactive to situational crises. In Australia the Beyond Blue campaign and a growing number of youth mental health services established under the Headspace program are dealing with the consequences of mental ill health.  However more male friendly crisis intervention services are required along with a concerted effort to address the root causes which are overwhelming social.
Whilst of course all men are different I believe it to be generally true that men often neglect their own health, especially in the area of preventative activities.  This is likely to be a predominantly socially constructed trait that persists and worsens in a contemporary environment that devalues maleness except is so far as it relates to utility to others. Even attempts to entice men into better self-care are framed in such a way as to enhance such utility rather than as recognition of their humanity and inalienable right to a rich, full and healthy life in it’s own right.
So this International Men’s Health Week I call upon my fellow advocates for men and boys to spread the word and also to reflect on your own health. If needed take the time to have a check up or make a lifestyle change. We need you each and every one helping to continue to turn the tide toward compassion for men and boys.  That’s one utility I am privileged to freely undertake and I hold worthy of remaining healthy for.

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