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Review date: July 2021

Citation: Whitehead, M., Ng Chok, H., Whitehead, C., & Luck, L. (2021). Men's Health Promotion in Waiting Rooms: An Observational Study. International Journal Of Men's Social And Community Health

 

The health of Australians is better overall than many comparative countries but Australian men have, on average, a shorter life expectancy than women and die in greater numbers from almost every non-sex-specific health problem1. Strategies such as displaying male-specific health literature in GP waiting rooms could encourage male participation in health and risk prevention discussions2.

A recent Australian observational research study focused on men’s health and gendered health promotion in General Practice, community health centres, and hospital waiting rooms.

The aim of this research was to examine the displayed health literature to ascertain the degree to which male-specific health literature was featured. This prospective observational study audited all printed health promotional materials in all health facility waiting rooms within a single Local Government Area. A total of 24 sites were surveyed. The displayed health promotional materials were then catalogued as being male-specific, female-specific, or gender-neutral.

Literature that had a gendered focus was overwhelmingly female focussed, outnumbering male-specific information by about 5:1. Male-specific health promotional content across all sites and across all printed media made up only 3% of materials, compared to female-specific material, at 15%, and gender-neutral resources at 82%. Given that males make up approximately half the Australian population and account for over half (53%) of the total burden of disease3, the prevalence of male-specific health promotion material would appear inadequate. 

The often-perpetuated narrative that men are not interested in their health due to hegemonic stereotypes of masculinity and stoicism are questionable4. The global expansion of Men’s Sheds, which originated in Australia, has shown that men activities when a gendered focus is exercised5. The generalisation of health promotion was another key finding in this study, with the vast majority of all displayed health literature targeted neither towards males or females (nor, by omission, transgender persons). When health promotion ignores gender as a determinant of health, it overlooks the differences between men and women, and how these differences affect health outcomes6.

The men’s health promotional material that was on display related almost exclusively to cancer and mental health. Other leading causes of men’s total burden of disease, such as coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, musculoskeletal pain, dementia, stroke, and type 2 diabetes were not promoted in a male-specific context. The absence of male-specific information within these audited waiting room spaces would appear to be a lost opportunity, particularly in chronic disease health promotion.

The demographics of consumers accessing health information in facilities may need to be factored in when and where health promotion is considered.

It was the authors’ view that responsibility lies with health staff to ensure that health promotion for boys and men is prioritised and disseminated within these waiting spaces. In addition, practice managers and clinicians ought to recognise the value of waiting room spaces as an arm of their overall health promotion strategy. 


 

1  Australia’s health 2018: in brief, 2018. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Retrieved from https://aihw.gov.au/ 
2  Hall, 2003. Promoting men’s health. Australian Family Physician 
3  The Health of Australia’s males, 2019. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Retrieved from https://aihw.gov.au/ 
4  Galdas, 2009. Men, masculinity, and help-seeking behaviour. In: Men’s health: body, identity and social context. Ed: Broom & Tovey. Wiley.
5  Golding & Foley, 2017. Men and boys: Sharing the skills across generations. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships 
6  Gelb et al., 2012. How have health promotion frameworks considered gender? Health Promotion International