My role


Australia takes first step to men's health policy

Australia is heading towards a National Men's Health Policy. Bernard Denner of the Centre for Advancement of Men's Health (CAMH) outlines what will happen and why it's so important.


Bernard DennerA new 'peak body' in Australia will ensure men's health interests are not forgotten in government policy-making for all Australian males. A peak body brings together a range of professionals in a industry, in this case, organisations and individuals who are involved in men's health and associated academics


In the past there have been different organisations representing men's needs in different functional areas like prostate cancer, suicide prevention, and boy's education and employment issues, this new national body will promote a holistic approach to men's needs so that government and other decision-makers take them into account when developing policy in all areas.


A National Male Health Policy will set a framework and strategy that will provide the Health Industry with a direction based on best practice models that attract men to act in dealing with male health issues in a similar way as women deal with women's health issues.

'Men's bodies are expendable'

To understand men's health, I believe, we need to understand the underlying theme that has modelled males for centuries. Society recognises that women must be protected and 'tenderly cared for' as women are the incubator for the human race.

"Men's bodies are expendable,' is how Fanning and McKay put it in their book Being a Man A Guide to the New Masculinity in 1993. 'They just aren't as important as women's bodies because men can't have babies. This is overstated to make a point, but not by much. The undervaluing of male life and health is an historical fact that clearly seen in war, in economics, in actual tables and patterns of health care utilization.”

Men's health has to be accepted as part of the general health of family within a specific framework that recognises that an outcome of healthier and happier men make better partners and fathers.

There is enough evidence, support from men and commitment from the general health industry to men's health. Enough is enough and enough 'just talk' from governments. Men deserve and families deserve a better health outcome for men through structured government health policy for males.  Now is the time for governments to act.   

If we are going to assist the cause of men's health, it is imperative that we consider a broader range of factors, socioeconomic and locational as well as genetic, hereditary and environmental; which might influence states of health, health risk and access to preventative, as well as curative or palliative, health services.

This contention was supported in the Draft National Men's Health Policy which recognized a social view of health incorporating social, economic, cultural and political factors which lie outside the health system and make a major contribution to patterns of health and illness among population groups, including men.  

Why we need a national policy

A National Strategic Framework developed through the Proposed National Body for Men's Health will acknowledge men's health as a national priority and give it TEETH to progress…

  • There is epidemiological evidence that men have a shorter life expectancy than  women, access health care less frequently and respond differently to life stresses
  • Many of the factors contributing to the poorer health status for men are preventable and can be addressed in the community setting
  • Stereotypes held by society and men themselves, present barriers to men when responding to their individual health needs
  • Recognition that men need Programs that they feel will provide a result and outcome.

The next question is how governments will support the process. 

The CAMH journey in men's health education and promotion started in 1994 when the then Federal Labor Health Minister, Carmen Lawrence, acknowledged that men throughout their lifespan were more likely to experience ill health or death than women. Other than devoted men's health organizations supporting men across Australia, little has occurred at Australian state or federal levels of government to formally address men's health needs since then.  From 1995 till 2007 the former Federal Liberal Coalition Government had no policy statement or direction for men's health, only a range of funding options to support men's health programs.


Now there is hope. A commitment from the current Labor Federal Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, is to develop and seek a way forward to implement such a policy. 

Consultation will beging this month in each state and territory prior to finalisation. There will also be opportunities for men at the local level to get together and talk and provide feedback if they would like to. The government is keen to ensure that everyone can have a say and that the policy is a practical way of meeting men's health needs, wherever they live.

The recently proposed representative National Body for Men's Health, will support the Australian government's development of a national policy with input from over 70 men's health representatives at a government forum in late 2008 to bring to fruition a National Men's Health Policy. The policy is expected to be finalised in 2009.


Bernard Denner

Centre for Advancement of Men's Health (CAMH)

Men's Health & Early Intervention Health Education

PO BOX CP 1403 Mildura Australia 3501 


Page created on October 1st, 2008

Page updated on December 1st, 2009