Research Funding for Male Health
Government research funding for male health lags significantly behind that for female health. Since 2003 funding for research relating to men’s health has been about a quarter of that provided for women’s health. Building the evidence base on male health is crucial. Identifying the determinants (individual and social) and the causal pathways for good and poor health in males in general and in specific sub-groups of males will allow resources and effort to be dedicated to activities where the most benefit can be gained. To accomplish this will require dedicated interdisciplinary and multi-method research into male health, but also require undertaking evaluation of both current and future projects and interventions.
What next ?
The aforementioned draw attention to some of the key issues affecting the health of Australian males. The persistence of these issues warrants as a priority the re-affirmation of the National Male Health Policy together with development, promulgation and funding of commensurate State and Territory policies. Moreover, and in keeping
with the key tenets of gender equity in health, health and research resources corresponding to the demonstrable needs associated with poor male health should be made available by policy makers, planners and service providers alike.
Rather than the general “one-size fits all” approach to addressing these issues, male-specific prevention strategies that take into account men’s differential vulnerabilities, including for sub-groups of males at special risk, are more likely to be effective than those that do not.
In order to address issues regarding health service use and perceived barriers to male health-seeking, we need a better appreciation – including through research – of the factors that act as obstacles to male health-seeking and health service utilisation. Moreover, policy, health services and health promotion programs need to better accommodate the differing social constructs for males and acknowledge the factors influencing their health-seeking behaviour.
Strategies need to actively encourage health service utilisation by legitimising health-seeking behaviour as fundamental to perceptions of male health and illness. There is a need for health promotion programs that are male orientated and which specifically target males.
Health services and providers need to be cognisant of particular physical, sexual and mental health issues that concern men as well as the social, geographic and cultural barriers that sometimes limit their engagement with health services. Health professionals also need a better understanding of factors influencing male health and health seeking behaviours and guidance in how to better structure clinical and management practices to encourage engagement of males. Clinicians should be attuned to differences in the way males express health concerns and the different symptomatology associated with certain conditions. They need to be more opportunistic in exploring sensitive issues, including sexual and reproductive health and mental health, particularly in the case of marginalised groups of males.
If there are to be strategies that address the socio-economic determinants most responsible for poor male health, a wider and more strategic commitment from departments other than health is required. When the siloed structures of government institutions limit cross-sectorial change, interventions need to be broken down into more manageable initiatives that fit within existing government departmental boundaries and capacity.