Last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald posed the question: Is the health system failing men? And sought comments from four experts: a cardiologist; a professor of primary care at the University of Western Sydney; the Chief Executive of the Cancer Council of NSW and a general practitioner from rural Victoria.
Only the general practitioner rebuffed the robot-like shirking of responsibility most men typically display for their own health care. The other three gentlemen exonerated men either directly or indirectly for their lack of proactivity and blamed the "health system" for being opaque and not men friendly.
Without saying it in so many words, three of the four experts felt that recognizing and preventing men's health problems is not just a man's issue. Because of its wider impact: its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men's health is truly a family issue. Or better still, society's issue.
Reports from government inquiries over the years – both in Australia and the United States - indicate that men's contributions to the demise of their own health problems include the following, in no particular order:
- tobacco smoking
- physical inactivity
- poor diet
- alcohol misuse
- psychological disturbances and
- psychiatric issues including depression, bipolar and suicides.
Many men are hospitalized or die men die from:
- diseases of the Heart
- cancers (including prostate, testicular and skin)
- cerebrovascular Diseases (stroke)
- chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
- unintentional Injuries/ Accidents including Diabetes Mellitus and
- kidney ailments
When it comes to their health, most men know very little. But they do have a choice.
They can take charge of their bodies and their minds, or they can sit back and hope for the best.
If they want to take a back seat, they need do little more than wait until more and more artery clogging statistics are expelled by different levels of Australian governments or by of similar socio-economic jurisdictions in North America.
Maybe awful statistic will prod men to action. Then again, maybe not.
If men really have time on their hands, they can wolf down more and more burgers and pizzas, wash those meals down with a cleansing ale or three, stay physically inactive glued to Radio 2 GB's continuous call team and whistle Dixie several times, until one day community based non profit organisations are finally established whose missions are to reach men and their families where they live, work, play, and pray with health prevention messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient steering. These organisations will help men make sense of the medical world at every one of life's many milestones: birth, puberty, manhood, child rearing, divorce, retirement, bereavement and death.
Using the United States data as a proxy for Australia, a detailed health investigation undertaken by Maggie Jones comparing men versus women's health in the New York Times in March 2003
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