Task force to tackle male reproductive crisis
Published On Wed 18 Mar 2020
A School of Medicine expert will head up a new international task force to tackle the growing global crisis in male reproductive health.
Professor Christopher Barratt is leading the Male Reproductive Health Initiative (MRHI), which will bring together scientists, clinicians, social scientists and policymakers to develop a coherent strategy for those working in the field globally.
A dramatic decline in sperm counts have been recorded in western nations in recent decades while almost all countries have registered an increase in testicular cancer and urogenital disorders in the same time. Aside from the reproductive implications, it is also known that having a low sperm count is indicative of a significantly higher risk of premature death.
Despite this, Australia is the only country in the world to have an existing male health policy that includes reproductive health, and public awareness of these issues is extremely low across the world.
In an attempt to address this situation, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has awarded Professor Barratt and his colleagues funding to establish a global strategic approach for male reproductive health.
“It has become increasingly clear that male reproductive health is in serious decline, with parallel changes in several key disorders,” said Professor Barratt, one of the world’s foremost authorities in the field of male fertility. “Over the past 18 months, we have been examining the current status of male reproductive health and how a strategic global initiative could be formulated and executed.
“Male reproductive health is of concern to essentially all males, in all age groups, and there is universal support for a coordinated global approach to tackling these issues.
“The MRHI will act as a short-term working group composed of a core group of scientists, clinicians and key interdisciplinary professionals to address important components in the strategy. The overall aim is to develop a detailed roadmap to address the key issues in male reproductive health today.”
The MRHI’s activities will take place across four main themes:
- Identifying the research questions that most urgently need to be answered
- Developing strategies to answer these key research questions
- Boosting and suppressing male fertility to rebalance responsibility for both contraception and infertility treatment
- Increasing engagement with both members of the public and policymakers.
Over the next two years, the MHRI will provide a forum for discussion, publish primary data and position papers, and engage with other stakeholders to develop a detailed roadmap for a global male reproductive health framework beyond the lifespan of the MHRI.
“A fundamental objective of the MHRI is to assess and improve education and social awareness in order to increase the involvement of men in reproductive health throughout their lives,” continued Professor Barratt.
“This includes how to better engage men and their partners with professionals and others about MRH, which may impact on public engagement and understanding.
“Identifying research questions and experimental strategies to address those is necessary but insufficient in itself. What is required is to know how we develop and execute key approaches to address the questions posed.”
Professor Barratt is Head of the Reproductive Medicine Group at the University. His research primarily focuses on understanding the function of the human spermatozoa and identifying the key factors in the process of sperm-egg interaction.
Along with collaborators in the University’s School of Life Sciences, he has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a safe and effective male contraceptive pill.