In March 2018, the Minister for Health announced that separate National Men’s and Women’s Health Strategies 2020-2030 were to be developed.

Both Strategies had the dual aims of independently building on recent improvements in men’s and women’s health and targeting emerging and persistent challenges. The Strategies will:

  • set specific actions to help address the health issues that affect Australian men and boys and women and girls throughout their lives, and
  • chart a path for substantial improvements in the health of Australian men and boys and women and girls over the next decade.

The priorities of each Strategy (see graphic) are remarkably similar, but the approaches and actions to be taken will be tailored to the particular needs of men and women separately.

Health Strategy

The Continence Foundation of Australia made two submissions to the Australian Government Department of Health in response to a call for submissions with a 3.5 week window.

Men’s Health Strategy 2020-2030

The was no reference to incontinence in the Draft Men’s Health Strategy despite incontinence being identified as a key priority condition on the National Men’s Health Forum1 which preceded the drafting of the Strategy. The Foundation’s submission made those drafting the strategy aware that:

  • At least 1.34 million Australian boys and men are living with urinary or faecal incontinence today2,3, which impacts on their physical and mental health and wellbeing, their sexual and reproductive health and their ability to age healthily.
  • There is a perception that incontinence rarely affects men and, when coupled with the stigma associated with urinary and faecal incontinence, this can contribute to men avoiding or delaying seeking help4.
  • The omission of incontinence from the National Men’s Health Strategy exacerbates the stigma around bladder and bowel control issues for men.
  • Omitting incontinence from the Strategy would be both economically and socially costly.

The Foundation asked that continence health be prioritised in the Men’s Health Strategy.

Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030

There was reference to the importance of the National Continence Program in the Draft Women’s Health Strategy which was pleasing, but it only appeared in the section on Health Ageing. The Foundation’s submission made those drafting the Strategy aware that:

  • In 2010, 1.34 million and 296,435 women of reproductive age (15 to 44 years) were living with urinary and faecal incontinence, respectively3.
  • 1 in 3 women who have ever had a baby will experience incontinence5.Young women are at high risk of developing incontinence, but it is highly preventable.
  • Women and girls with mental health issues are at risk of developing incontinence and urinary incontinence is a predictor for anxiety and depression6,7.
  • The economic burden of incontinence totalled $66.7 billion in 2010 and most of the cost of incontinence (74%) is borne personally by individuals, particularly by women.3

The Foundation stressed that this Strategy is an important opportunity to get the health priorities, and mix of responses, right for Australian women and girls. Given that the impact of incontinence on their quality of life and physical and mental health is immense, it must be included in the Strategy.

The public consultations have closed, but you can view background documents and the Draft Men’s Health Strategy and Draft Women’s Health Strategy online.




  1. Nous Group. Summary of Outcomes – National Men’s Health Forum 2018. [Internet].2018 [cited 2018 December 12]. Available from:
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Incontinence in Australia. Cat. no. DIS 61. Canberra: AIHW; 2013.
  3. Deloitte Access Economics. The economic impact of incontinence in Australia. The Continence Foundation of Australia; 2011.
  4. Mohamed AM, Hassouna MS, Kassem MS. Gender differences in factors associated with patients' decisions to seek treatment for urinary incontinence in Alexandria, Egypt. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal. 2010 Nov 1;16(11):1170-82.
  5. Thom DH, Rortveit G. Prevalence of postpartum urinary incontinence: a systematic review. Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica. 2010 Dec 1;89(12):1511-22.
  6. Chiarelli P, Brown W, McElduff P. Leaking urine: prevalence and associated factors in Australian women. Neurourology and urodynamics. 1999;18(6):567-77.
  7. Felde G, Ebbesen MH, Hunskaar S. Anxiety and depression associated with urinary incontinence. A 10‐year follow‐up study from the Norwegian HUNT study (EPINCONT). Neurourology and urodynamics. 2017 Feb;36(2):322-8.