Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 2271 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
Mr Speaker, I believe we have presented here a practical report on which action can be based. We have presented a report with recommendations that are achievable, and I look forward shortly to a positive government response to those recommendations. The report, if supported by the Government, will bring a greater focus to the issue of men's health. The report contains no impossible demands on government. It is a sensible, practical report.
One of the decisions we made was that there should be no establishment of a number of stand-alone men's health services such as is the case with women's health services. We do not believe that that is necessary. We do not believe that it is affordable, either. We do believe that men ought to do more about their health, but we do not propose - we do not have the resources and the Government could not do it - to go into an extensive program to try to change significantly men's behaviours. Maybe in some circumstances they do need changing, but that is a very difficult and in fact a very long-term task.
We want men and women to pay more attention to men's health. One of our recommendations has called for the implementation in Canberra of a model of a men's health program that we saw in Victoria. We found that to be a very good program, something that is working on the ground, getting men and women to focus on their behaviour. We want that model to be tried in the ACT and to be worked through with the ACT Division of General Practitioners.
In the course of our inquiry, the Minister for Health, Mr Moore, indicated that he had provided some funds in the current ACT budget to get that program up and running, dependent of course on the support of the Division of GPs and of the Victorian people. I understand that that support has been given in principle by both bodies and we now await the outcome. I think there needs to be a little coordination between ACT Health and the Division of General Practitioners to get the end result up and moving. I do not think that is far away.
We made one other very significant recommendation. That was in respect of the problem that some men find with prostate cancer. We looked at that quite deeply, and we made a recommendation beyond the power of the ACT Government to implement, but we do look for the Federal health authorities and the Federal Government to take steps to introduce a national screening program that might help identify men who are prone to prostate cancer. It is worth pointing out that almost as many men die of prostate cancer as women die of breast cancer. It is to be acknowledged that there is a significant difference in that women with breast cancer die younger than do men with prostate cancer, so many more years of potential life are lost.
Prostate cancer remains a very significant problem with men. There are screening programs that can be implemented to identify a possible problem. It is not for the ACT Government to do that. It requires a national approach. At present the Commonwealth Government, on advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council, does not support such a screening program. From information I have received, I am optimistic that in time, with the review now being conducted by another committee, the Commonwealth may change its view. I would hope that happens and I would hope the ACT Government is in a position to lend some weight to a change in that policy.