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Mens Health policy - Bipartisan support for men's health policy

MEDIA RELEASE Fatherhood Foundation - Thursday 20th March 2008

MEDIA RELEASE - Thursday 20th March 2008

Bipartisan support for men's health policy

On March 19th the Fatherhood Foundation convened the Men's and Fathers' Health Forum at Parliament House, Canberra. Made up of key stakeholders from fatherhood and men's groups, health professionals and indigenous men, the Forum underscored the need for a national men's health policy to complement the women's health policy introduced almost 20 years ago.

Greg Andresen from Men's Health Australia said
Whether we look at life expectancy or illness and death rates, men's health status is inferior to women's.

Many of the causes of men's poor health are preventable. For example, the leading causes of the health burden in young men include anxiety, depression, suicide, injury, road traffic accidents, and drug & alcohol abuse. Until now most efforts to improve men's health have come from grassroots initiatives across Australia. We hope this national policy will co-ordinate these efforts and target resources to those men who need them the most, including indigenous, young, rural and marginalized men.
Warwick Marsh from the Fatherhood Foundation said
We were extremely impressed with the bipartisan support shown at the Forum. A number of MPs from across the political spectrum spoke of their support for the policy.

The Hon. Roger Price, Chief Government Whip, has played a key role in keeping this policy on the Government's agenda, and the support from the Federal Opposition through such men's health champions as Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz has been invaluable.
The Forum produced a six-point road map outlining the necessary steps needed to produce a comprehensive policy focused on men's wellness and not just illness. The road map emphasizes the need to recognize the indigenous male health gap, the importance of adequate community consultation, and the need for sufficient funding in the May Federal Budget to develop and implement the policy. Representatives of the Health Minister assured delegates that the policy was under active development

Micheal Woods from the University of Western Sydney said
The wide variety of health experts and experienced grassroots workers gathered here today look forward to the Government developing a policy that avoids blaming men for their own poor health.

A sensible policy would examine the many social, family and financial demands on men and the often unhealthy working and commuting environments that lead to many men not living the healthy lives we all deserve.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Regarding any concerns about the forum in Canberra 19th March

A supportive letter from the national body… edited as this is a public forum.
From: Michael Woods
Sent: Thursday, March 20, 2008 2:03 PM
Subject: [National Body] Regarding any concerns about the forum in Canberra 19th March
Hi to Bernard and any others about the meeting in Canberra yesterday (March 19).

I attended the forum at Parliament House. I was invited with a few others in addition to those who the organiser (Warwick Marsh) had involved in earlier attempts to lobby federal MPs.

Warwick has been doing this for some years (that is, using his good relationships with a number of MPs to try to spur some movement in issues effecting men - the last time Warwick did this was to push for those changes around Family law - that have since been passed).

Warwick could have as easily gone along himself, or with a few like-minded friends, but chose instead to try to get some others along who shared an interest in the development of a men's health policy. I don't think he dared presume to attract all of those who had something of value to say on this matter, but he did try to ensure he got some cross-section of views, and did not set himself up as a "spokesman" of some sort. I must say that Warwick was immensely professional - and skilled - in ensuring consensus from all present.
Neither I nor anyone else there misrepresented ourselves as a representative of the developing National Peak Org - although there was mention its embryonic existence. Those who were present (and Warwick in particular) stressed that the small number there on the day in no way claimed to speak for all individuals and organisations that are working for men - we merely represented those organisations with which we were based, or our individual interests in matters male, and had been able to attend at fairly short notice. As a group, and with our combined experiences, we provided a useful cross-section of perspectives, albeit limited in scope and representation.
The intent of the day was simply to add to the progress of the proposed Men's Health Policy. …  Ad hoc coalitions of interested people will constantly form to progress a variety of men's issues, whether it is government policy, or media attention, or community lobbying and activism around needs and services.
As you will undoubtedly receive some summary of the day, I won't go into too much detail here, other than to say the forum developed some points for action to encourage those MPs who are sympathetic to men's health. (The main ones as I recall were:

1. There is a need for a men's health policy, but one that is strength based rather than a deficit approach. [Bad policy could be worse than no policy].  The policy should recognise the additional burden and needs of Indigenous men

2. There is a need to ensure adequate resourcing and status by the Minister so that the policy is developed, and not side-tracked or forgotten

3. The policy should be developed through broad consultation with all stakeholders. There were a few other points which I can't recall off the top of my head, but they were in line with these).

There was also an undertaking that the recommendations and any responses would be circulated widely to men's orgs and individuals, which I think is being undertaken by Greg Andresen.
A number of MPs from both major parties and a staff member from the Health Minister's office came for discussion about the question of a men's health policy. They (of course) expressed support, and the info from the Minister's office suggested that the process was under way, and that our points would be considered.

I must say I am a little concerned to find that the process of developing a policy is already under way, and to the best of my knowledge, that there has been no consultation of any sort as yet. It may be that this snippet of information is enough to motivate us to hurry along with the formation of a peak body, so that men's organisations can more readily ask for a level of meaningful participation before the policy has gone too far along.
Micheal Woods
Senior Lecturer
University of Western Sydney - Richmond
Building P 11
Locked Bag 1797
South Penrith DC   1797
Phone: (+61) 02-45701550
Fax: (+61) 02-45701522
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