Global action needed on men’s health

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 |

Globally, men’s health is a problem that has as yet barely been addressed. The Lancet’s recently published and stunning report on the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) clearly shows the scale of the problem: in 2010, global male life expectancy stood at 67.5 years and female at 73·3 years. Although the life expectancy of both sexes has increased substantially since 1970, the sex gap is actually widening: from 4.8 years in 1970 to 5.8 years in 2010.

More men die in every age group, except the over 80s. In every five-year age-group between 20 and 64, over 60% of all worldwide deaths are male. The biggest proportion of male deaths (65%) is in the 50-54 year old group.

The GBD researchers broke down deaths by almost 70 risk factors. For all but six, men were more likely to die. Some differences were to be expected – with men at much greater risk from tobacco, alcohol, drugs and occupational factors – but some were surprising. For example, the study found more men died because of unimproved water and sanitation, sub-optimal breastfeeding and low bone mineral density.

This and a ton of other data on men’s health points to an urgent need for action at the global level with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the lead. Earlier this year, WHO adopted the Rio Political Declaration on the Social Determinants of Health which included a commitment to ‘pay particular attention to gender-related aspects as a key element in public policies to reduce health inequities, and in social and health services.’

This welcome statement now needs to be followed with a work programme. I recommend that this should start with WHO:

  • Publishing a section on men’s health on its website which includes a summary statement of the health issues facing men globally.
  • Commissioning a multi-country study of men’s health with recommendations for action on priority areas.
  • Urging its member states to implement measures to improve men’s health.

Men in the Central African Republic have a life expectancy of just 43.6 years. In the Central sub-Saharan Africa region as a whole, it’s 53.2; in South Asia, 63.4; and in Eastern Europe, 63.7. This colossal waste of life must be tackled as a public health priority.

Comments are closed.