Professional training: a key issue in men’s health

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 |

Tomorrow, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) runs its first-ever men’s health training course for GPs and other practice staff. Fittingly, the event is being held at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and about 80 are expected to attend. They will hear a range of speakers on a wide range of topics, including male mental health, obesity and sexual health, as well as male-specific problems such as testosterone deficiency and erectile dysfunction, and discuss how men’s use of GP services can be improved. I will be presenting on ‘The Key Issues in Men’s Health’ and will be recommending a 10-point action plan for GPs (outlined in a previous blog.)

RCGP has already developed what it calls a ‘Curriculum Statement on Men’s Health’, covering many of the key areas in men’s health, for GPs to use as part of their professional training and development. The pharmacy profession also has access to a similar learning tool, produced by the Centre for Postgraduate Pharmacy Education (CPPE). The Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) has also delivered a number of training courses on men’s health for the public health workforce. One of the legacies of NHS North West’s excellent work programme on equality and diversity will be a training package on men’s health, including a video compiled with the help of the Men’s Health Forum (MHF) and the European Men’s Health Forum (EMHF).

These training programmes are of huge significance and a great leap forward. It is clear that, without proper training, most practitioners will remain largely unaware of how to work effectively with men on a wide range of health issues. The Irish Government’s National Men’s Health Policy made this very clear when it stated:

“This policy highlights the need to develop and provide training and support for service providers on best practice while engaging with men. It is clear that both the integration of gender and men’s health into relevant undergraduate and post-graduate courses, and the provision of professional training in men’s health to existing health and allied health professionals, needs to be an integral part of policy development on men’s health.”

So far, the training programmes on offer in the UK have been taken up by a small fraction of practitioners. They now need to be rolled out on a much bigger scale. Hopefully, the Health and Social Care Act’s requirement for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to tackle inequalities, the public sector equality duty, the NHS Equality Delivery System (EDS) and the Outcomes Frameworks’ emphasis on tackling premature mortality (which mostly affects men) will encourage a greater emphasis on professional education and training on men’s health. NHS Employers certainly believes that workforce development includes the need to address the knowledge, skills and mindsets required to meet the equality duty.

During International Men’s Health Week (10-16th June), EMHF will be hosting a symposium on how men’s use of primary care can be improved and one of the big issues under discussion will be how professional training can support this. EMHF aims to persuade key European organisations – including those representing GPs, practice nurses, optometrists, dentists and pharmacists – to consider how their pre- and post-qualification education and training programmes can take proper account of gender and men’s health.

Without this critically important development, men’s health inequalities will take very much longer to eradicate.


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