The Federal Government's new Well Person's Health Check excludes some men for whom preventive healthcare has the biggest potential to improve future health, AMA president, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said today.
The Well Person's Health Check is a new Medicare item number designed to help doctors detect and prevent chronic disease in Australians aged around 45 years who are at risk of developing chronic disease.
The Government introduced the new item number at AMA's urging, but restricted access to the health check despite the AMA's original proposal that all people should be eligible.
Dr Haikerwal said to be really effective in preventing chronic disease, the item number should be broadened to include all people, with or without identifiable risk factors.
"Real prevention takes place before risk factors develop," he said.
"If we are serious about tackling chronic disease, then regular health checks for all adults aged 45 or over - regardless of their health status - is a must."
Visiting the PMP Printing factory in Melbourne as part of Family Doctor Week, Dr Haikerwal impressed upon workers the value of regular GP check-ups, particularly for men.
Australian men are almost twice as likely as women to die from heart or lung disease, and malignant tumours - conditions that are often treatable if detected early enough through regular GP consultations.
Yet research has shown that men are less likely than women to report minor illness or mental health problems, and less inclined to visit their GP.
"Perhaps one reason for this is that men have a functional view of their bodies - many won't get help unless something actually goes wrong," said Dr Haikerwal.
Young men in particular are reluctant to see their family doctor, but Dr Haikerwal said it is just as important for them to have regular check-ups.
"We need to make health care accessible to young men to help them avoid serious health issues later in life," he said.
"Young men need to understand the benefits in regular health checks and getting to know their GP so they can feel comfortable talking to them about anything.
"Prevention is clearly not high on the agenda for men's health and they are suffering as a result."