International Men's Health Week - What is it?

The focus for 2023 is building Healthy Habits
The focus for 2023 is building Healthy Habits

Men’s health often takes a back seat to everything else in their lives. Social stigmas, work, and other commitments can all get in the way of men taking care of themselves in the most literal sense.

What is International Men’s Health Week?

International Men’s Health Week is celebrated world-wide in the middle of June.

It was started in the US by Congress in 1994, to raise awareness of preventable health problems in men and boys. Raising awareness was designed to encourage the early detection of diseases, and prompt earlier treatment.

Since then, it has slowly spread across the globe, starting in Australia in about 2020.

Here in Australia, International Men’s Health Week is coordinated by the Centre for Male Health at Western Sydney University. They aim to provide a platform for challenging and debating key issues in men’s health, celebrate the contributions men and boys make to our society, and raise the profile of men’s health needs and outcomes.

In 2023, the theme for International Men’s Health Week is Healthy Habits – encouraging men and boys to identify small changes they can make to benefit their health and wellbeing.

The focus is not just on physical health, but also mental health and emotional wellbeing. Traditional societal expectations of men and boys have discouraged help-seeking, including for health issues, and this is an important problem to tackle.

A snapshot of men's health challenges
A snapshot of men's health challenges

Snapshot of Men’s Health

Men face a vast array of health challenges. Compared to women, men are more likely to be overweight, experience higher rates of a range of chronic diseases, die by suicide, and have a lower life expectancy.

The vast majority of men do not eat enough fruits or vegetables, or get enough physical activity.

Almost an eighth of men smoke daily, and over a quarter consume too much alcohol.

The leading cause of death in Australian men is coronary heart disease. This is a disease which has significant lifestyle-related risk factors.

Men’s Healthcare Challenges

Men's experience with healthcare can vary depending on various factors such as geographic location, cultural background, socioeconomic status, and individual health needs. However, there are some common themes and considerations regardless of these factors:

  • Access to Healthcare: Men's access to healthcare can be influenced by several factors. Financial barriers can prevent some men from seeking necessary medical care. Geographic location and transportation issues may limit access to healthcare facilities, particularly in rural areas. Men who belong to marginalized or underserved populations may face additional barriers due to systemic inequalities.
  • Health Awareness and Prevention: Men often face challenges related to health awareness and preventive care. Cultural and societal expectations around masculinity may discourage men from seeking help or discussing health concerns openly. This can lead to delayed or inadequate medical attention. Regular check-ups, screenings, and preventive measures like vaccinations are essential for maintaining good health, but men may be less likely to prioritize or engage in these practices.
  • Specific Health Concerns: Men have unique health considerations that differ from those of women. Some common men's health issues include prostate problems, erectile dysfunction, testicular cancer, heart disease, and mental health concerns. Awareness, early detection, and appropriate treatment of these conditions are crucial for overall well-being. However, societal stigmas, lack of knowledge, and reluctance to discuss sensitive topics can hinder men from addressing these concerns promptly.
  • Mental Health: Men's mental health is an important aspect of their overall well-being, yet it is often overlooked or stigmatized. Men may face societal pressure to appear strong and self-reliant, which can discourage them from seeking mental health support. Depression, anxiety, and suicide rates are notable concerns among men. Encouraging open conversations about mental health and creating accessible mental health services are essential for addressing these challenges.
  • Sexual and Reproductive Health: Issues such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), family planning, infertility, and sexual dysfunction affect men's well-being. Promoting comprehensive sexual education, access to contraception and STI testing, and addressing fertility concerns are vital aspects of men's healthcare.

To improve men's experience with healthcare, it is essential to address these challenges through various means, including education and awareness campaigns, accessible healthcare services, targeted support for underserved populations, and destigmatizing mental health issues. Encouraging men to take an active role in managing their health and providing them with the necessary resources and support can lead to better outcomes and overall well-being.

International Men’s Health Week 2023

This year, take time to focus on the health and wellbeing of the men around you as well as yourself.

Ask genuine questions about their physical and mental health . Encourage booking a health check-up, or actively seeking help for known issues.

Actively support the men and boys in your life to know that taking care of their health is not only acceptable, it is a necessary priority.

The theme for this year is ‘Healthy Habits’ – work together to find small, actionable habits to improve the health and wellbeing of men and boys.

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