Spreading the word about older men’s health

South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network

A primary prevention campaign to increase awareness of the importance of annual health checks among older men began with a decision to invite the target audience to a presentation at a social club.

We worked with South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (SEMPHN) to devise a strategy for a pilot campaign in Frankston after research identified men over 65 as having the lowest levels of health literacy compared to other population groups. Older men are particularly vulnerable because they may find it harder to navigate the health system and understand health information. This can lead to serious undiagnosed health issues that could have been prevented if detected earlier.

A review of health promotion approaches in Australia and overseas showed that older men are often more open to candid discussions on health issues in non-medical, informal settings.

Our strategy was to engage older men in Frankston through presentations at community groups such as men’s sheds, rotary clubs and seniors clubs. With the help of a practice nurse specialising in men’s health, we created a presentation format that mixed campaign messages about the benefits of annual health checks (and the risks of avoiding them) with opportunities for down-to-earth discussions with a dash of humour.

Audience members were offered practical flyers with detailed information, including a tool for planning questions and remembering what they discussed with their doctor, and were also invited to become health spokespeople in their local communities by starting conversations with friends and peers.

To reach older men in Frankston who are not involved in community groups, we produced a series of advertorial features over four weeks in the local newspaper highlighting campaign messages and offering to present at other organisations. Frankston Council also wrote about the project in its resident newsletter Frankston City News.

Feedback collected at the presentations indicated that the majority of men found the information valuable and that they felt more confident about visiting their GP to have an annual health check.