Men’s health guide to support better patient care
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Men’s health guide to support better patient care

A boy born in Australia in 2010 has a life expectancy of 78.0 years while a baby girl born at the same time could expect to live to 82.3 years old. And right from the start, boys suffer more illness, more accidents and die earlier than their female counterparts.

To boost awareness and show our support, MedicalDirector has launched a new Men’s Health Guide, uncovering the common health issues affecting men in Australia and how healthcare professionals can manage men’s health in more personalised, patient-centric ways.

Top 10 causes of premature death in men

According to data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016, the leading causes of death for Australian men include, in order from first to last:

  • Ischaemic heart disease
  • Trachea and lung cancer
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cerebrovascular diseases
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon and rectum cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Blood and lymph cancer, including leukaemia
  • Suicide.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia and the third most common cause of cancer death. A staggering one in five men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer by the age of 85. While age and genetics are the dominant causes of prostate cancer, a diet high in fat and low in fresh fruit and vegetable also plays a part. While GPs are highly trusted as providers of nutrition advice, medical appointments aren’t often used to deliver nutrition advice or refer patients to other healthcare practitioners to manage diet.

According to MedicalDirector’s Chief Medical Officer and GP, Dr Middleton, a big challenge for patients and doctors alike is the overwhelming amount of often contradictory advice available on nutrition.

“As GPs we can focus on proactively advising patients on appropriate nutrition to support their broader health,” she says. “Doctors are encouraged to consult the RACGP guidelines, designed to assist GPs when working with patients on certain lifestyle risk factors including poor nutrition and diet.”

Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is the most common cause of cancer in young men aged 18 to 39. The rate of men diagnosed with testicular cancer has grown by more than 50 percent over the past 30 years, the reason for which is not known.

“While testicular self-examinations are in large part the responsibility of the patient, GPs should ensure their patients are well informed of all symptoms of testicular cancer and annual physical examinations should be encouraged,” Dr Middleton says.

Mental health

Most of us have a least one significant male figure in our lives, and a recent national survey indicates that it’s the “little things” we would mourn the most if a man close to us died.

Around one in eight Australian men experience depression, while one in five will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Suicide rates for men are three times higher than for women. Tragically, men take their own lives at four times the rate of women.

According to Dr Middleton, one of the key barriers to overcome to overcome is the stigma related to illness, which impacts how patients communicate with and engage their GP.

“Open and honest conversations are one of the most effective prevention measures for poor mental health in men, but again they’re easier said than done,” MedicalDirector’s Chief Medical Officer and GP, Dr Middleton, says. “GPs need to ensure they’re creating a comfortable environment free of assumptions or judgement, where men are more likely to open up about how they’re feeling. Mental health care plans are an important step in treating mental health and every patient’s case will be unique.”

Preventive care

There is ample research showing the importance of preventive care in optimising patient outcomes.

The World Cancer Day Organisation states over one third of cancers are preventable. And it is widely acknowledged that GPs, who see 85% of Australia’s population at least once a year, can make a significant, positive impact to their patients’ health outcomes with the right preventive care.

When it comes to Men’s Health, recent figures from Movember show if prostate cancer is detected early, there’s a 98% chance of survival beyond 5 years. If detected late, the figure drops to a worrying 26%.

According to Men’s Health Week, it is important that men make use of health services to preventatively manage their health and find out before it’s too late if problems exist. At the same time, health services need to know how to reach out to, communicate with and engage with men to be effective in helping them when they do come through the door.

“It’s a two-way process that is about creating environments that support the ability of men to access healthcare effectively and support health services to treat men effectively,” Men’s Health Week Org states.

According to Dr Middleton, while the evidence points to a clear connection between preventive care and better patient outcomes, the reality is, there are so many obstacles that stand in the way between doctor and patient to deliver good preventive care.

“The RACGP’s Guidelines for the implementation of prevention in the general practice setting (The Green book) is a good start,” she says. “It helps GPs understand how to integrate these preventative techniques more effectively in your daily clinical practice.

“Cutting down the micro-moments of practice inefficiency can also help open up more time for preventive care,” she adds. “Using electronic letter writing templates and electronic referrals, accessing patient files on the go via the cloudautomating workflow processes such as billing and reporting, are just some ways that can help shave the time wasted on administrative tasks so you can focus on your patients, not your paperwork.”

Patient engagement tips for medical practitioners and health services*

  • Consider how you market to men – find out about men-friendly practices and tailor your services to include men’s needs.
  • Get to know your patients and look out for broader signs of problems that men may not voluntarily disclose.
  • Reach out to men through community events and organisations – not only will it help your service to gain goodwill and clientele but it will reinforce the need for men to consider your services.
  • Work with other health services and professionals to coordinate men’s health initiatives.
  • Help men, women and children understand the kinds of problems and symptoms you are seeing in patients that they should be mindful of.

*As recommended by Men’s Health Week