Indigenous Men’s Health: Raising awareness of the link between erectile dysfunction and chronic disease

Today the Minister for Indigenous Health, The Hon Warren Snowden MP, launched A lot of Aboriginal men sort of keep it to themselves, an educational DVD aimed at assisting health professionals in opening discussions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men about what is a culturally sensitive subject: the link between chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and erectile dysfunction (ED).

The aim of the DVD is to assist health professionals working in Indigenous communities to have a more holistic approach to men’s health – highlighting how the management of chronic disease may be improved when ED is also considered.

Understanding the link

There is increasing evidence of a link between ED and chronic disease. Studies have also demonstrated associations between ED and depression, highlighting the effect of living with erectile problems on quality of life.

A study published recently in the Medical Journal of Australia reported low levels of help-seeking behaviours for reproductive health disorders among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, with implications for missing or late diagnosis of ED. According to the study’s author, Dr Mick Adams, cultural and geographical barriers exist in men’s help-seeking behaviours for reproductive health problems. “Similarly, health professionals may feel inappropriately equipped to talk about ED, particularly when gender, generational and/or cultural differences exist within the patient-doctor relationship,” he said.

Barriers to help-seeking reported in this study included shame, culturally inappropriate services and lack of awareness, all highlighting the need to normalise reproductive health problems to encourage men and health professionals to engage in open dialogue about ED. It is hoped that if men are given opportunities to discuss their health they may more readily discuss those issues of a personal and sensitive nature that may also impact on their general health and relationships. Indeed, with high rates of chronic disease reported in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males, the lack of discussion about ED may translate to potentially missing a predictor of chronic disease.

Starting the discussion

The Male Health Education DVD provides health professionals with the knowledge and skills to initiate dialogue and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males about the associations between chronic disease and ED.

The DVD includes a series of interviews with a number of health professionals working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and medical specialists with expertise in male reproductive health issues, and covers a number of themes such as male friendly health services, strategies when starting to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and talking about sexual health issues with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males. Information about the causes and management of erectile dysfunction and links between chronic disease and ED is also included.

The project was overseen by the Andrology Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male Health Reference Group, chaired by Associate Professor Mark Wenitong.

The DVD was produced by Andrology Australia and supported with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

A limited number of DVDs is available—to request a copy of the DVD, or to enquire about its availability, please contact info@andrologyaustralia.org or call 1300 303 878.

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