HUNTER men are among the country’s fattest. They smoke more, drink more alcohol and suffer higher rates of some cancers, but men’s health programs in the region have all but disappeared.

Seven years ago there were 35 agencies in the Hunter targeting better health programs for men, but only a handful remain. Over the same period, scheduled events for Men’s Health Week have dwindled from about 10 to just one.

A lack of funding is among the key causes of the decline in services, but so too is the fact that many of the agencies who once focused on men’s health issues are now focusing in different areas.

The issue will top the agenda at a two-day seminar being held in Newcastle from Thursday. The first of its type held in Australia, the Engaging Men training seminar has been organised by the Men’s Health Forum NSW and will bring together key agencies to discuss how to better tackle declining health services in the Hunter region, and how those agencies might work more collaboratively.

It will target the general health of men, their relationships, young men, their community involvement, and specific areas such as sexual health, spirituality and mental health.

‘‘The Hunter has a long history of doing good things in the area of men’s health,’’ author, health educator and president of the Men’s Health Forum NSW Greg Millan said.

‘‘But since 2005 we’ve fallen into a bit of a hole. The focus has almost disappeared.

‘‘A lot of funding now goes to things like the Men’s Shed project, which is great, but we’re not seeing the big funds designated to specific health programs.

‘‘We need to get these agencies working together again or we’ll continue to see the health of men in the region deteriorate further below the state and national average.’’

Among the key experts attending the forum is Dr Elizabeth Celi, a leading national voice on men’s health issues, psychologist and author.

It will be staged at Crowne Plaza, Newcastle.