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Gendercide by Neglect of Men's Health

(Open Letter)

© Peter Zohrab 2003

 

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To: Hon. Annette King, New Zealand Minister of Health

Dear Madam,

 

Introduction

I am writing (somewhat belatedly) to thank you for your letter about men’s health, dated 11 July 2002, to Ross Robertson MP, of which he sent me a copy. Your letter was in reply to one which he wrote to you on my behalf, for which I am most grateful to him.

The delay in my writing to you has been caused by the need to set aside the time to give you a reply which puts a good case to support my initial reaction to your letter, which was that the New Zealand Government is carrying out a campaign of gendercide by neglect against the males of this country. On re-reading your letter after all these months, I am now able to discern positive elements in it, but my initial impression that gendercide is involved here still seems to me to be justified.

 

Gendercide

The prima facie impression of an anti-male orientation is created by the very first paragraph of your letter to Ross Robertson, where you state:

“I … agree that New Zealand men appear reluctant to be proactive in the pursuit of good health.”

It is not clear if Ross Robertson gave it the same emphasis that you did, but to put such a statement at the very start of a reply on men’s health (whether the writer is male or female) reeks of excuse-making, and gives the appearance of discriminatory callousness towards the health needs of men. Correct me if I’m wrong, but numerous government health awareness and publicity campaigns have been directed at women, Maoris, Maori women, etc – with absolutely no indication that there was some prior requirement that (for example) Maori women showed signs of proactive pursuit of good health ! As far as I know, however, there have been no such government health awareness and publicity campaigns directed at men – though I have noticed occasional items on men’s health on television, of uncertain origin. In other words, the Government spends taxpayer money to inform women and Maoris, etc. of their health needs, and then spends money improving their health. In the case of men’s health, on the other hand, the Government spends no money informing men of their health needs, and then actually goes out of its way to criticise men for not being aware of their health needs ! This is the same sort of sexist, anti-male double standard that we are used to seeing in the Justice system.

• According to the New Zealand Life Tables 1995-97, Figure 2.8, there are more male deaths than female deaths in New Zealand for every age-group under 80 years of age – presumably because there are relatively few men who live as long as 80 years. That is an obvious prima facie case for treating men as a target group for education, prevention and treatment. Men – I must point out to you – pay more taxes than women do, and deserve a return on this expenditure.

There is some callous Feminist propaganda around that tries to pretend that men’s shorter life-span is somehow “natural”. I refer you, however, to a different view in Vallin, Jacques (1995): "Can Sex Differentials in Mortality be Explained by Socio-economic Mortality Differentials ?" in "Adult Mortality in Developed Nations," edited by A. Lopez, G. Caselle and T. Valkonen (Oxford: Clarendon Press) ( http://www.soa.org/sections/farm/farm_vallin.html ). It also seems fairly clear to me that (hormones apart) there is no biological explanation possible for male deaths being greater than female deaths at every relevant age-group. The difference is probably caused by man-hating Feminism and female selfishness, on the one hand, and male chivalry and self-sacrifice, on the other.

 

Primary Healthcare Strategy

According to an article by Dr. Karen Poutasi, the Director-General of Health, in the Dominion newspaper of 21.5.2002, about 30% of hospital admissions for those under 75 are avoidable, and she wants to reduce hospital costs by getting people to seek primary healthcare so as to reduce the cost to hospitals. She also says that this type of (i.e. avoidable) admission is higher for Maoris and Pacific Islanders than for Pakehas. According to the webpage http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/7004be0c19a98f8a4c25692e007bf833/773f92d8d97ead26cc256b6b00785b5e?OpenDocument one goal of this new strategy is to "identify and remove health inequalities".

A graph on page 237 of the 1996/97 New Zealand Health Survey shows that fewer men than women are admitted to public or private hospitals for all age-groups except the 65-74 age-group, when the proportion of men admitted to hospital suddenly shoots up from about 12% to about 24%. In addition, page 198 of that document states that “Women were more likely than men to visit a GP at least once in the previous year,” and that “Women were also more likely than men to make frequent visits to a GP.” Taken together, these three bits of evidence constitute prima facie evidence that men neglect their own health (while women pamper themselves), until suddenly they are hit by a health crisis that forces them to be admitted to hospital. I am sure that you have no way of denying this, because it is clear that you and your Ministry have little interest in or knowledge about Men’s Health. Taking this data in conjunction with Dr. Poutasi’s published comments, it seems clear that men should be a target group in relation to reducing hospital costs and improving men’s life-span.

Figure 99 of the 1996/97 New Zealand Health Survey shows that men in the 75+ age-group (unlike younger men) visit GPs about as frequently as women in that age-group do. This can be interpreted as meaning that only those men who have developed the habit of visiting their GP regularly live long enough to reach the age of 75. The Ministry of Health should sack its sexist, Feminist, anti-male managers and hire people who are prepared to give men’s health a fair go.

One of your senior Health ministry officials – a woman – told me on the phone (she refused to commit herself to writing me an email) that if the statistics showed that there was a need to target men’s health, men’s health would certainly be targeted. The graph mentioned above shows that to be a lie. You and your Ministry neglect men’s health in a callous – not to say ruthless – manner, and you should be taken to a Human Rights court for that.

A search for "Women's Health" on the Ministry of Health website on January 6th 2003 yielded 14 results and a search for "Men's Health" yielded zero results. Similarly, the 1996/97 New Zealand Health Survey at http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/7004be0c19a98f8a4c25692e007bf833/d7b3cf1eee94fefb4c25677c007ddf96?OpenDocument cites a 1996 Ministry of Health report called, “Women’s Health Status in New Zealand”, but there is no reference to any study on Men’s Health in New Zealand. It is not for nothing that the logo on the Ministry of Health’s home page features a woman’s face but no man’s face !

 

Positive comments

I am pleased that you state:

 

There may be areas where men’s health could be improved through preventative measures and access to medical advice or treatment.

 

That seems to indicate that you have not closed the door on further advances in the area of men’s health.

I also regard as positive the fact that (as you state) the National Health Committee has contracted the New Zealand Guidelines Group to undertake another review of the evidence surrounding screening for prostate cancer, and that the Prostate Awareness and Support Society (PASS) is participating in that review. That review was due to have been completed by now, and I will soon see if I can find out what its conclusions were.

Another positive aspect of your letter is the fact that (as you state) the Government pays the cost of the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, rather than the patient.

 

However, ….

According to the page: http://unisci.com/stories/20012/0608015.htm “Prostate cancer detection is currently based on three diagnostic tests: serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA), digital rectal examination, and transrectal ultrasonography.”

Unless there have been recent advances that I don’t know about, the PSA test by itself produces too many false positive results and too many false negative to be adequate on its own – which is why the digital rectal examination is recommended in conjunction with the PSA test. According to the webpage http://www.vmmc.org/dbProstateCancer/sec39165.htm , transrectal ultrasonography is used if a GP’s examination indicates that further investigation is required. That same webpage indicates that even transrectal ultrasonography does not provide definitive results, and has to be combined with a needle biopsy.

Although, therefore, it is good that the Government funds the PSA test in New Zealand, it does not fund a GP’s digital rectal examination, and I don’t know how long the waiting-lists are for transrectal ultrasonography and needle biopsies in public hospitals. So there is an obvious case for the Government to fund digital rectal examinations as well, and to make sure that transrectal ultrasonography and needle biopsy waiting-lists are not too long – given that the Government funds cervical cancer and breast cancer screening programs for women only (men do get breast cancer, as well as women), and there seems to be a constant stream of women-only or mainly-women conditions, such as osteoporosis, waiting in the pipeline for the Government to throw targeted money at.

In addition, there is the issue of research funding. It is probable that much more money is thrown at research into women’s diseases than at research into men’s diseases – both in New Zealand and world-wide. For example, the webpage: http://www.prostatepointers.org/ww/funding.htm states:

“Although the breast cancer death rate and that of prostate cancer are nearly equal, the research funding for breast cancer is about seven times that for prostate cancer.”

The New Zealand Government has a responsibility to ensure that just as much funding is directed at research into male-specific conditions as at research into female-specific conditions.

 

Conclusion

If the NZEEF ever received an invitation to provide input to your Primary Healthcare Strategy, I’m sure we would not have seen it as a priority, because we would not have been aware of the implications. Men have to educate themselves about Health Issues because (as shown above) out Government is not interested in informing us about our health issues. That needs to change.

Sincerely,
Peter Zohrab,
Acting President,
New Zealand Equality Education Foundation.

robertson

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