Challenges and Changes in Men’s Health – past achievements and next steps

Friday, November 16th, 2012 |

Last night, I was honoured by an invitation to speak at a joint Men’s Health Forum/Royal Society of Public Health reception on the theme of ‘Challenges and  Changes in Men’s Health’. The event was held to mark my departure (in August) from MHF after 12 years as Chief Executive and my appointment to the RSPH Academy of Experts. As well as being an opportunity to celebrate with friends and colleagues old and new, I wanted to map out some of MHF’s achievements and some of the key issues now coming to the fore in men’s health.

Among the challenges are securing funding for men’s health work – for the MHF this means building new relationships with a wider range of corporates and raising money directly from the public – and developing a men’s health movement that is ‘bottom up’ as well as ‘top down’. I would like to see networks of men’s health community activists made up of men and women who can talk to their neighbours, work colleagues, parents at the school gates and people in the pub about the issues and start to put pressure on local councillors, MPs and local health services.

It’s vital to integrate men’s health into the new health system, including health and wellbeing boards and clinical commissioning groups. Health organisations that are serious about tackling inequalities and improving prevention must address gender differences in outcomes and behaviours.

We need to take a more nuanced look at men’s use of health services and focus more on those areas of primary care which we know men don’t use effectively, such as pharmacy, bowel cancer screening, NHS Health Checks and dental check-ups. Clinicians need to get better at talking to men about weight and erection problems and public health as a whole must address the growing incidence of diabetes, a men’s health timebomb if ever there was one.

Other important issues include tackling the problem of counterfeit medicines and pressing for the introduction of HPV vaccination for boys as well as girls. Australia is including boys in its HPV vaccination programme from next year and the reasons for doing so apply equally in the UK – vaccination will increase women’s protection from cervical cancer, protect both sexes from genital warts, and protect men, especially men who have sex with men, from rising rates of HPV-related oral, throat, penile and anal cancers.

Finally, I suggested that it’s now time to consider men’s needs in social care – a very neglected area so far – and whether interventions like minimum alcohol pricing and a so-called ‘fat tax’ would have particularly beneficial impacts on men’s health.

To find out more about the event, click here. To read my presentation in full, click here.

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