Putting men's health on agenda
Are men getting a raw deal when it comes to health? James Smith thinks so and is determined to do something about it.
The PhD student in the Disciplines of Public Health and Medicine at the University of Adelaide said the perception that men were disinterested in their health was untrue.
James, 25, who was named the 2006 Young Australian of the Year for South Australia for his work with men's health, has just been awarded a $15,000 scholarship by the Masonic Foundation to undertake a men's health policy study tour in the UK and Ireland next year.
The Trevor Prescott Memorial Scholarship, awarded by the philanthropic arm of the Freemasons, will fund the two-week study in June 2007, as well as James's continued work in men's health services.
He will meet with Professor Alan White, the world's first Professor of Men's Health, who is based at Leeds Metropolitan University in England; and with Noel Richardson, who is helping to develop a national men's health policy for Ireland.
"Both men are international leaders in the field of men's health and I hope to put some of their ideas and policies into effect in South Australia," James said.
His PhD, due for completion next March, is looking at how and why men seek help from health professionals.
"To some extent, my research is debunking the myth that men are not interested in their health. They are, but they negotiate their health in different ways to women. They attempt to focus on solutions when they have a health problem. If they can fix it themselves, then they may not seek help. It's a very male-oriented approach."
James's PhD project is part of the University's broader Florey Adelaide Male Ageing Study, led by Professor Gary Wittert, which focuses on the health of more than 1000 men from Adelaide's north-western suburbs.
"We're finding that men who do seek help for health problems are more likely to continue using health services once a diagnosis has been made. It is about pinpointing that a problem does exist," James said.
Although the State Government established a Men's Health Taskforce in 2005, there is still no official men's health policy at a State or Federal level, James said.
"I hope this scholarship will assist in changing that."
James is also developing a resource manual to help general practitioners encourage men to use health services.
His PhD is being supervised by Professor Gary Wittert from the School of Medicine and Dr Annette Braunack-Mayer and Dr Megan Warin from the Discipline of Public Health.
Story by Candy Gibson