Home' Australian Pharmacist : May 2011 Contents Vol. 30 -- May #05
right foods, get more exercise,
Mr Helmers said.
'We're not stupid, we know these
things. But what actually makes us
do it? A lot of the time it's the social
environment that we live in that
makes us do it.
'The policy also addresses the fact
that the number one killer of men
is social isolation. This is the trigger
point that leads to the cancers,
heart disease and so on.
'Social isolation is the trigger point
that starts us drinking, we don't
eat properly, we don't exercise --
all these things. That's where the
men's sheds come into it. We give
an alternative to that isolation.
Professor Macdonald said that
while the policy was ground-
breaking, the next step was finding
ways to implement it and, as
President of the Australasian Men's
Health Forum, he was using that
organisation as just one vehicle to
advocate ways to implement the
'We are showing the states and
territories how to put into operation
some of the aspects of the policy,
Professor Macdonald said.
'The new health reform agreement's
focus on preventive and primary
health has great synergy with the
National Male Health Policy.
'I am a professor of primary health
and believe the Men's Shed is a
good example of primary health. It
stops people becoming depressed
and ill. The sheds are good for
mental and physical health.
'Every day in Australia we have five
men commit suicide, and that's only
the ones we know about. Having a
Men's Shed can help stop someone
from committing suicide because it
gives them social connections. To
me that is primary health at work.
Until recent months, male health
in Australia has been surprisingly
neglected, given research shows
that Australian males have, on
average, a shorter life expectancy
than Australian females, dying
at 78.7 years compared to 83.7
years for females -- and they are
dying earlier of some preventable
diseases and injuries.
The key for pharmacists when
dealing with male health issues
is being proactive, according
to community pharmacist, PSA
Board member and academic
Dr Shane Jackson.
Dr Jackson believes pharmacists can
play a more active role in the area by
identifying common male ailments in
their region and acting upon them.
'For instance in one area it may
be smoking, another region may
have high incidences of depression
among males, and in yet another
cardiovascular disease may be
' Dr Jackson said.
'If a pharmacist is proactive then
they can ask the male, "How's your
blood pressure?" or "Have you
thought of giving up smoking?" or
whatever the appropriate topic may
be. If you have a proactive policy it
makes it very easy to engage with
the male on topics of concern and
relevance to them.
Dr Jackson said he disagreed
with the notion that males were
more reticent about talking to
pharmacists about their health.
'They may be more reticent about
coming into the pharmacy but once
they're here, they are not only
willing to talk about the issues, but
sometimes more so than females,
'It's the first step that's the big
one -- the realisation they need to
talk to someone and then coming
in to the pharmacy. Pharmacists
have to be aware that the male may
have struggled with themselves
over coming in and so we shouldn't
be out the back. We must be
accessible and able to talk to them
about their issues.
Dr Jackson said if the male didn't
want to come into a pharmacy, his
'proxy' could be used -- his wife,
daughter, mother and so on -- to
'The pharmacists can ask; "How's
Johnny? Has he had his blood
pressure taken lately?"
. Their proxy
will then relay the message that
the pharmacist thinks they should
get their blood pressure taken or
whatever the case may be.
'The end result is that the message
gets to the male.
In focus groups leading to the
development of the policy,
respondents made it clear they
wanted a policy that was not just
for men, but for Australian males of
A picture of male health
In 2009, to gain a picture of attitudes
to male health across Australia,
26 public forums were conducted in
each state and territory, with more
than 1300 people -- health experts,
government and non-government
organisations, peak bodies and males
-- involved. More than 90 public
submissions were also received
leading up to the development of the
The consultations and an extensive
review of the literature led to
underpinning assumptions which
• The health of Australian males is
• There are health inequities
between males and females.
• Not all male population groups
have the same health outcomes.
• Health is holistic.
The statistics underlying the
development of the policy are
stark. For instance, in 2006, 22%
of male deaths occurred in the
25--64 age group compared to 14%
of female deaths. Male mortality
rates were higher than female rates
across all age groups. In 2005,
males experienced higher rates of
premature death and lost 75% more
potential years of life than females.
The major contributors to potential
years of life lost for Australian males
are coronary heart disease, lung
cancer and other heart diseases (all
of which are largely preventable),
and suicide. Land transport
accidents, which also have scope for
prevention, are a major contributor
to years of life lost for Australian
Consequently, the National Male
Health Policy has a focus on primary
prevention to reduce the likelihood
of a disease or disorder developing
and secondary prevention to
interrupt, prevent or minimise the
progress of a disease or disorder at
an early stage.
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