April 18, 2024

We need a national male reproductive health policy, say researchers

We are in a crisis, say some scientists

“Of the 193 United Nations states, only one – Australia – has developed an effective national male reproductive health policy,” observe three reproductive health scientists in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online.” It is time for other countries across the globe to rise to this challenge.”

It may come as news to most people, that male reproductive health needed any tinkering at all, let alone a government health policy.

However, some scientists are even describing the situation as a “crisis”.

What situation?

First, there has been “ a decline in sperm total counts of around 1.6% per year between 1973 and 2011”. Second, research has found that there is a “larger than anticipated epigenetic contributions by the male to the health of the next generation”. Third, “impaired semen quality/male infertility is associated with shorter life expectancy and increased long-term morbidity”.

In short, “men live sicker and die younger”.

The World Health Organization has lamented that so little is known about male reproductive health. This seems odd, in the light of the fact that IVF has become a billion-dollar global health industry. But the authors of the article point out that “with the success of IVF/ICSI we have effectively bypassed the need to further understand spermatogenesis, sperm physiology and the role the spermatozoon has on the health of future generations”. There is only an “illusion of progress”.

The authors have therefore called for a Male Reproductive Health Initiative, with funding for basic research and government promotion of lifestyle changes for men. They point to Australia as a positive role model.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge   

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