As another year passes and we say goodbye to Men's Health Week, it is important to remember that while the week highlights health issues that affect men and focuses on raising awareness of problems they may have or could develop, and gain the courage to do something about it, the attempts should be a year round effort. Men's Health Week 2020 ran from June 15 to June 21 and had a high focus on the COVID-19 outbreak, but also on getting people to work together to address men's health. Something that Orange Aboriginal Medical Service (OAMS) has been doing since 2005.
Operations Manager, Michael Newman, said that for 15 years the driving force behind OAMS has been the desire to see the Orange Aboriginal community actively involved in the broader community through economic development and to meet an identified 'gap in service delivery' to their people. "The biggest impacts have been our ability to meet changing needs of clients and community," he said. "Our focus on innovation, expansion and inclusion have been the most satisfying and positive 'outcomes' to date".
While men's health has historically not been as prominent or focused on enough compared to the health of other groups, the increasing number of events and programs such as Men's Health Week, Men's Sheds and Movember, appears to be bringing about change. Michael said that Aboriginal men continue to be one of the most marginalised demographics in our community, with minimal male-focused and responsive services available. With this in mind, earlier this year, OAMS created an Aboriginal Men's Health and Wellbeing Trainee position as part of their Walan Ngayi-ny Dhulubang (Wiradjuri meaning Strong Mind Strong Spirit) Team. "Their sole focus is working with men one-on-one to support their social and emotional well-being and to help drive male-lead community development projects through our direct partnership with Yarruwala Ngulubul (Wiradjuri meaning Wise Council of Men) Men's Group," he said. "This is a first, not only for OAMS but for many of the AMS's across the state which puts men's health at the forefront of OAMS work every day".
Indigenous health is still a distant second behind general population health in Australia, despite efforts to close the gap, however Michael said OAMS is taking proactive steps to improve the situation with a focus on health and education. "We have to be innovative in how we not only deliver services, but ensure that those services are designed and implemented to deliver 'improved health outcomes' for our clients, families and community," he said. "Intervention and prevention practices have to be applied to our children in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. If we can impress on our people that being healthy and well is okay, then hopefully over time we will have closed the gap in health disparity between Aboriginal people and the general population".
"Men need to be empowered and included to be leaders in their families and in the community and we implement this by ensuring we have a male presence across a number of elements of OAMS," he said. "Our 'family approach' to health care is also critical. 'Connection and safe space' for our men to be confident enough to allow conversations to flow. Not only in these conversations do we identity what support is available but we also identify our strengths and what we do well which is also important when it comes to our overall health". For more information on OAMS and the services they provide, visit www.oams.net.au.