In a year of sadness, it's time to focus on the guys

By Helen Storer, APNA Board member and nurse representative for Healthy Male

Source: APNA Primary Times Spring 2020 (Volume 20, Issue 2)

2020 has been filled with overwhelming sadness for many Australians. The New Year saw devastating bushfires destroy homes and livelihoods and then COVID-19 hit. With it came social distancing, isolation, extensive job losses and a steep economic downturn.

Frightening statistics indicate 1 in 5 Australians have either lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced. The Government predicts by the time this article is published unemployment will be 8 per cent higher in states that are experiencing a second COVID wave.

The national men’s health strategy 2020-2030 tells us that Australian men suicide three times more than women. Unemployment increases this risk three times.

The grim reality for us in primary health is how can we help boys and men deal with the psychosocial impact of 2020 and also look at their physical health as being more than prostates and hamstrings.

"Men's health is more than prostates and hamstrings" 

We know men are less likely to visit their GP than women. The ABS in 2013 indicated that men visit their GP on average 4.6 times per year and women 6.1 time. Men aged 15-44 only average once a year, while women in this age group visit 3.1 times.

Men are also less likely to have a regular GP. This cohort usually present with respiratory, psychological or musculoskeletal problems. As men age, presentations are usually for chronic conditions such as hypertension diabetes or osteoarthritis.

Primary health care nurses can be leaders of inter-agency, multidisciplinary approaches to health care. Many are already doing this and can use opportunities in the practice to build unique connections with their community and relationships with patients.


When we are preforming ear toilets, dressings or vaccinations we have a window of opportunity to ask what is making them sad at the moment, focusing on emotional distress rather than a diagnosis or label.

We can offer the opportunity to follow up with a telephone call, encourage them to make a longer appointment with the GP, direct them to websites that provide current and valid information and provide takeaway written information.

I also provide them with my own information sheet which lists local resources including where to get a free hot lunch, exercise groups, walking groups, food bank, local men’s shed group, what services the practice provides (for example health checks, chronic disease information, skin checks), and information about local resources including allied health.


In 2003, Robert Hall, a Clinical Associate Professor at Monash University, listed strategies for overcoming barriers in men’s health. He suggested making your practice attractive by providing displays of men’s health issues, having brochures on men’s health, running evening clinics that are more accessible to working men, providing questionnaires to complete before they came in, take-home information, reminders and making follow-up appointments. He even suggested running clinics in men’s workplaces.

Healthy Male has developed resources for these health checks “Spanner in the Works” - check out their website All are great ways of increasing health care access to men.

At my clinic, we try to have focus months on specific health issues. For example, we have our “Spring has Sprung, get you skin check done” where we have postcards for patients to take home to share with family and friends, target the local surf club, have posters in the surgery and a social media push appropriate for our beachside location to remind both men and women of health checks available. Other events include bone health. We have just completed a Quality Improvement activity with the mobile bone density van performing bone mineral densities.

Primary health care nurses need to be Jack-of-all-trades and be versatile to do what we feel is required in new and different ways to encourage men to make good choices, stay socially connected, check in with their mates, make time to have regular check-ups and develop ways to solve men’s reluctance to attend for health care.



  1. General practice encounters with men vol 45 No 4 April 2016
  2. Promoting men’s health vol32 No 6 Jun2003
  3. Healthy Male
  4. MJA Unemployment Suicide and COVID 19

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

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