Politics and Policy in Health

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Senior (College 4th year) ・Healthcare & Medicine ・APA ・5 Sources

The policy is available in both electronic and hard copy formats to the general public. As the course of action should be population-based, the availability of public participation forums has enabled experts to continue integrating views.

Background in Policy and Epidemiological Perspective

The issue of health inequality is one of the most well-documented policy justifications, with evidence indicating that males are the primary contributors to Australia's declining quality of life. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 report, the median age of males in Australia was 36.4 years, 0.8 years lower than the national average (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016a). While Australia is known for its high quality of life and higher living standards, internal comparisons show a worrying disparity where females live five years longer than males. While the issue is a well-recognized concept in all nations where women live longer than men, Australian context is uniquely different, where the gap in life expectancy between male and female has steadily been widening since the 1900s. For instance, between 1900 and 1910, the gap was 3.6 years (Cockerham, 2016). However, the latest demographic reports show a difference of 4.5 years, where the life expectancy at birth of a male child is 80.4 while that of a girl is 84.5 (AIHW, 2017). Of critical concern to the policymakersis the persistence of early deaths even after public health gains such as eradication of diseases, better access to care services, and immunisation programs. Misan (2013) offers one of the most compelling arguments, where he notes that men are faced with lifestyle factors, socioeconomic hindrances, and lesser access to medical care when compared to women. The claim justifies the centrality of the policy.

The Australian National Male Health Policy is also a problem-based course of action that is based mainly on existing public health indicators that show gender-based disparities. The observation is based on the fact that the group is bearing the most onerous burden of chronic ailments, communicable and non-communicable diseases, psychosocial concerns, mental health, sexual and reproductive issues, ergonomic elements, and non-specific causes of mortality and morbidity when compared with their female counterparts. For instance, while the comparative indicators show that Aussie men are enjoying a better quality of life and living standards when compared to other advanced countries, mortality and morbidity indicators indicate gender-based differences, with some segment of the population performing below the average (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016b). Males report disproportionate prevalence rates endocrine disorders, cerebrovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory ailments, conditions affecting prostate and lymphatic system, ischaemic heart disease, and suicide, a public health issue responsible for 60% of all deaths among males (AIHW, 2016).When compared to their female counterparts, men of all age groups are also more affected by fatal non-specific events. The health disparities make the standardised mortality rate 2.2 higher per thousand nationals when compared to that of women (AIHW, 2016). While the rate seems minuscule, extrapolations reveal that the socioeconomic implication is 22,400 additional deaths every year.

Comparisons of specific subsets of the population also reveal disparities. For instance, male Aussies aged 15-24 are the most hit group by fatal non-specific health events, where the group account for 163% of all deaths. The proportion is double the number of female in the same years that lose lives due to unprecedented causes. An underlying aspect is overlooked issues such as ergonomic injuries, suicide, and road accidents (Misan, 2013). Another justification on the gender-based problem is the statistics on the socioeconomic burden of diseases. For instance, over 50% of males above 15 years report myriad of health issues, a scenario that worsens as they aged (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2012a).

Social Perspective

Like in the case of other policies, the social gradient is an important background issue. The primary explanation for the disparities and disproportionate prevalence rates of health issues is the lower socioeconomic status, where men appear to be adversely affected when compared to females. The observation is justified by premature deaths, where Misan and Ashfield (2011) note that even females in socially disadvantaged areas seem to be performing better than males in socially advantaged regions. The case is worse in men from groups faced with historical injustices, such as the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, where the burden of health disparity is double that of their female counterparts living in the same setting. The primary disadvantaging element facing men residing in regions associated with low socioeconomic status is the level of education. Lack of adequate schooling determines the social position of the individuals, where they are less likely to secure better-paying opportunities and report poor health outcomes because they are not in a position to make informed lifestyle choices. Their compromised decision-making capacity also forces them to pursue health-damaging jobs. The risk averseness explains why socially disadvantaged males have low health indicators, report the highest prevalence of diseases, and are less likely to seek medical care.

Geographical Perspective

Locality is another health determinant, where males in remote regions are the most hit group when compared to their counterparts in an urban setting. According to Misan and Ashfield (2011), vulnerability to chronic disease, among other debilitating conditions, increase with remoteness. Males in rural areas and remote regions appear to be having higher cases of arthritis, some cancers, diabetes and bronchitis when compared to occupants of the cities. Males outside metropolis also exhibit poor health behaviors such as substance abuse, smoking, alcoholism, poor diet, being overweight, and sedentary lifestyle choices. Rural areas also report the weakest rate of educational attainment, making social, economic status, poor access to health care services, and exposure to dangerous equipment and substances to be clustered along geographical lines.

Goals

The primary goal of the policy is providing a framework that will guide interventions to improve health among all Australian males and achieve equal outcomes for all population groups of men who are considered vulnerable.

The tenet of the goal is captured in the six priority areas that include:

  1. optimal health for males;
  2. health equity between different ethno-racial groups;
  3. improved health for males across all age categories;
  4. preventive health for male to offset the risk of chronic ailments and injuries;
  5. build a robust stock of knowledge to support evidence-based programs, policies, and initiatives;
  6. improve access and health care utilization patterns for male population groups.

Resources

Being a nation-wide policy that has been adopted to address health inequities and disparities that are based on historical injustices, the implementation is joyriding on existing infrastructures, human resource, and systems. It is relying on existing facilities and workers at national, territory, and local levels. However, the national government expressed a commitment of $16.7 million to fund the initiative (The Australian Government, Department of Health, 2011).

Monitoring and Evaluation

The monitoring and evaluation of the policy will exploit continuous and periodical tools. For instance, periodical demographic surveys by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, as well as census data, will be critical in understanding the gains achieved since the adoption of the policy. Similarly, population-based indicators produced by Departments of Health and Human Services at the national, states and territory, as well as local levels will assess extent to which differentialsin male and female health outcomes have been resolved, as well as trends in inequities among groups that have attracted priority funds such as the Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders.

Political Opportunities

The policy provides one of the best avenues of dealing with the political question of overlooking the Aboriginal camps and ignoring remote regions such as the Torres Strait Islands. The supposition is based on underinvestment in the said areas, where previous regimes have politically excluded the Natives. The case is also a win for the men groups who have been involved in sensitization campaigns since the 1950s, where the policy will allow investments that will ultimately enable men to enjoy better health outcomes (Smith & Bollen, 2009). It will also empower the Natives to play an expanded role in building the nation like other ethno-racial groups.

Public Opportunities

The public has gained in the following ways:

  1. Health promoting, early detection, and timely treatment of diseases among males
  2. Improving access to prioritized health care services among males
  3. Health promotion and research have been supporting efforts to document social determinants that influence male health and make the group more vulnerable to predisposing factors and behaviors. The investment in scientific inquiries will also improve knowledge on attitudinal elements, thus change trends in the utilization of health services and health care seeking behavior.

Obligations

The Government

The government is the primary player in the policy, where it has been pivotal in resource mobilization and forming partnerships with parties such as NGOs and the private sector.

Health Care Providers

The human resource has been playing a critical supportive role, as they are the primary focus of the implementation.

Politicians

The politicians have expressed a sustained political will, where all adjustment of budgetary allocation should be based on legitimate issues.

The Health Industry Fraternity

While the government has sealed regulatory, legal, and funding gaps, the healthcare investors have complemented efforts made. They have made the goal of improving access to be tenable by supporting the government in addressing material and immaterial barriers.

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016a). Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/3235.0

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016b). Life Tables, States, Territories and Australia, 2013-2015. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Latestproducts/3302.0.55.001Media%20Release12013-2015

AIHW. (2016). Australia's Health 2016 (15th ed.). Canberra: AIHW. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/9844cefb-7745-4dd8-9ee2-f4d1c3d6a727/19787-AH16.pdf.aspx?inline=true

AIHW. (2017). Deaths. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/summary

The Australian Government, Department of Health. (2011). National Male Health Policy. Retrieved from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/male-policy

Cockerham, W.C. (Ed.). (2016). The new Blackwell companion to medical sociology. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Misan, G.M. (2013). Male health and male health policy in Australia. New Male Studies: An International Journal, 2(3), 104-119.

Misan, G.M.H., & Ashfield, J. (2011). Male health: facts, determinants and national and South Australian policy responses. South Australia Public Health Bulletin, 8(18), 33-41.

Smith, J.A., & Bollen, C. (2009). A focus on health promotion and prevention through the development of the national men’s health policy. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 20(2), 98-101.

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