Page 2337 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 22 June 2011

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encourage everybody to watch it, because one of the places they will be visiting in this documentary is Malaysia. And I think it will be quite informative for everyone to see the situation that asylum seekers and refugees face in these countries and would hopefully inform people’s views on this particular issue.

International Men’s Health Week

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (6.42): Last week I attended two functions being held during International Men’s Health Week. I visited the Men’s Shed in Tuggeranong with Australia’s first bloke, Tim Mathieson, and Minister Joy Burch. I then opened a conference on this topic the next day. International Men’s Health Week is an opportunity to strengthen our efforts to improve men’s health in the ACT. This is important because, put simply, blokes are often not good at looking after their health.

Last year the commonwealth launched the national male health plan 2010. I am proud that Australia is one of the handful of countries in the world to have a male health plan. And I am impressed that the term “male” was chosen rather than “men” because I think we really need a cradle-up approach.

For example, 25 per cent of Australian boys are overweight or obese. And we know that excess bodyweight is associated with increased cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Over half of all males 14 years and over are consuming alcohol on either a daily or weekly basis. And we know that excessive alcohol use is a major risk factor for mental health disorders, violence and accidents.

Male health is not just about prostate and testicular cancer. There are clear differences in how males deal with health issues and how they use health services. Males make the least use of preventive and health promotion services. Many males only present in acute situations or after long periods of persuasive encouragement from their partners or family. In my 30 years in clinical dentistry, this difference was very clear. Men would often present later, with more advanced disease, and then choose less than ideal outcomes.

Males generally experience poorer health than women. Males have higher rates of exposure to risk factors such as smoking, substance abuse, physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Only five per cent of men consume sufficient fruit and vegetables. Two-thirds of men are overweight or obese. Poverty, unemployment and less education are significant factors—the social determinants of health.

In remote and rural Australia where I have been working this year, males have poorer health. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and those from non-English speaking backgrounds are more vulnerable. The life expectancy of Aboriginal men is 17 years less than their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

Chronic stress and serious life stresses like family breakdown and social isolation also have their impact. Nearly half the male population will have a mental health condition at some time during their life.

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