Engaging men in primary care settings

There is a persistent and troubling myth that men don’t care about their health.

But they do.

Most men older than 40 will have visited a doctor in the past 12 months. But compared to women, men visit the doctor less often, have shorter consultations and tend to see their GP later in the course of their illness.

generations_v3Recognising that it is important for GPs to maximise opportunities to engage men effectively, our Clinical Summary Guide No. 11 Engaging men in primary care settings provides evidence-based guidance on:

  • factors that influence men’s interaction with GPs
  • strategies for GPs to engage men in discussion about their health
  • how to approach sensitive issues
  • debunking myths about men’s engagement in health services (with implications for health service providers)

How to get it

The Clinical Summary Guide is available as a downloadable PDF file and is also included as part of the set of guides offered to GPs who complete one of our active learning modules.

Also see our free online course Primary Health Care for Men which provides knowledge, skills and communication strategies to assist primary health care nurses and other health professionals to better engage men in the primary health care setting.

Tips for men’s health promotion in primary health care services

Take some time to review your practice for lasting impact on men’s health.

Tap into the evidence

Identify state and national organisations that provide evidence-based information and clinical guidelines on men’s health issues (we suggest starting with these Australian websites). It can be helpful to link with peak organisations that provide quality information to help support your clinical practice. Follow them on social media or traditional print publications.

Why it’s important: Avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’—a number of organisations across Australia can support your practice (and patients) with free, quality evidence-based clinical resources on men’s health.

Become ‘male-friendly’

Consider the ways in which your practice could be made more ‘male-friendly’:

  • Do you operate out-of-hours clinics or flexible appointment times to accommodate men in full-time employment?
  • Is it feasible to have more male health professionals on staff?
  • Is your reception and waiting area gender-inclusive?
  • Is quality men’s health information readily available to your patients?

See our clinical summary guides no. 11 ‘Engaging men in primary care settings’ and no. 12 ‘Engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men in primary care settings’ for more information.

Why it’s important: Some of the biggest barriers to men accessing health care are related to the (perceived or actual) inaccessibility of health care services.

Get male health resources

Review the men’s health clinical resources that you have available.

  • Does your practice have (and use) an orchidometer?
  • Are you using clinical treatment guidelines, templates and patient assessment tools relevant for your male patients?
  • Use resources such as the Medicare Health Assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (MBS ITEM 715) modified to include sexual health, the Male Fertility Assessment form, and Andrology Australia’s Clinical Summary Guides.

Why it’s important: Having the correct tools to hand ensures that important information is collected and considered.

Clinical audit

A critical review of past treatments and outcomes can be revealing, and may help to establish recall and reminder systems. Consider questions such as:

  • With how many male patients with diabetes have you had conversations about erectile dysfunction (and vice versa)?
  • How many parents of boys born with undescended testes have been provided with information about future risk of testicular cancer?
  • How many male patients have had a genital examination when assessing fertility or androgen status?
  • How many older male patients with borderline low testosterone levels (6 to 8 nmol/L) will now (since April 1, 2015) not be eligible for testosterone therapy on the PBS?

Why it’s important: Men may be reluctant to ‘make a fuss’ about their health, but generally respond well to timely and relevant advice and reminders.

Prioritise professional education on men’s health

Put men’s health education on your agenda:

  • When did you last have in-house training on men’s health?
  • Does the practice need an update on male genital examination?
  • What do your practice nurses need to know about men’s health?
  • How can you earn RACGP/ACRRM QI&CPD points in men’s health??

Why it’s important: What you prioritise in your formal education agenda sends a strong signal of what is important in your practice.

Make it local

A rich network of local support services and organisations may be available to your male patients, but it is of little benefit if men don’t know about it.

Collate a list of the men’s health services and support groups in your area so that you are ready with ‘friendly advice’ about local support beyond your practice. This could include counselling services for men, new dad’s programs, continence programs for men, nutrition and dietary advice specifically for men living on their own.

The websites of the Australian Men’s Sheds Association and Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia list the contact details of local sheds and prostate cancer support groups. Local councils may also be able to advise about men’s health services in the area.

And if local services are not available, do you have the details for national helplines, such as MensLine Australia (1300 78 99 78) and the National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66)?

At a professional level, contact your Primary Health Network (PHN) to see if you can work together on men’s health, and advocate for men’s health to be on your local PHN agenda.

Why it’s important: Traditionally many practices and community health services have a culture that supports family health primarily with respect to women’s and children’s health.

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