Public Policy

  • First European Men´s Health Report: Europe's black hole: Deaths among men of working age are double those of women
    September 2, 2011

    The European Men's Health Forum is today warning that unless a fundamental change is made in the whole approach taken to men's health, the EU will suffer both socially and economically.

    The Forum were responding to The State of Men's Health In Europe Report, which has been launched in the European Parliament in June 2011. The Report shows that every year twice as many men of working age (16-64) die as women with some 630,000 male and 300,000 female deaths across the EU27 countries in this age group. The Forum are calling for this group of men to be explicitly targeted.

    EMHF President Ian Banks explains: ‘We've seen great improvements in life expectancy because older people – if they make it to retirement age – are living longer. The great black hole is men of working age where we've seen very little improvement in the death rates in recent years. These men have been neglected for too long. We need a wide-ranging and fundamental change in policy. This is the group we need to be targetting.'

    The Report proves that lifestyle changes can make a real difference if only men can be enabled to make them.  But it also places a responsibility on policy-makers and politicians to consider the health implications of other policies such as on the economy, education, employment and housing.

    Men are dying prematurely but the rates at which they do this vary enormously from country to country and even within countries according to region or social group. This is evidenced by the massive differences in male life-expectancy: just 66 years in Latvia compared to 80 in Iceland, for example – a 21% longer life.

    The Report says that the data proves men's health disadvantage is an issue of inequity and not biological inevitability.

    Dr Banks says, ‘The challenge for all of us working in healthcare is to find male-friendly policies that can change this in terms of information-giving, facilitating healthier choices, screening and access to services.  But it's also about the bigger society, the wider socio-economic policies. Men can't make healthy choices if the work they do – or don't do – and the social and economic structures within which they live prevent them.'

    The EU-commissioned State of Men's Health in Europe brings together the official epidemiological data from across Europe and across all major disease areas from cancer and heart disease to mental health. The Report's lead author Professor Alan White of Leeds Metropolitan University in England said:   ‘For the first time we have a clear picture of men's health across the EU.  Previously we had a series of partial pictures by country or disease area. This brings it all together so that policy-makers at all levels across Europe can see exactly what they're dealing with and learn from each other.

    Let's make no mistake, it can be done. To give one example, if every country had the accident rate of the Netherlands we'd save 100,000 lives a year.'

    The Report makes a strong business case for keeping men alive. ‘This is not just about health,' said Dr Banks. ‘Premature male death undermines the economy, undermines families, undermines women and their health and undermines our social security and health services.'

    ‘Europe will have far fewer men of working age in the years to come so if we're to succeed economically we need them to be in decent health.'

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  • Doin' masculinity, not doin' health?
    January 20, 2011

    Male employees – health beliefs and workplace physical activity

    A recent research article published in BioMed Central Public Health (Volume 10), November, 2010 outlined health beliefs and workplace physical activity among Dutch male employees.
    Workplace health promotion programs haven't traditionally taken a specific gendered approach or individual lifestyle determinants into account. This study gives further insights and analysis into how masculine gender norms affect health promotion and workplace behaviors. Stated another way, the study examines how male employees' attitudes, ideals, and beliefs toward health impact their workplace physical activity and other issues.

    Workplaces have been widely accepted as an effective outlet to engage men and women in health and wellness programs because they spend more time at work than at any other activity, except sleeping. Voluntary participation in worksite programs is often much higher than in one-time community events. Workplace wellness programs bring both tangible and intangible benefits to employees and the employers (Wellness Council of America [WELCOA], 1995).

    The value of workplace screenings and efforts has been recognized in many circles. Improving employees' access to preventative services offers numerous potential benefits. Frequently, individuals are advised to make behavioral changes to reduce disease risk. Worksite health promotion programs can facilitate and support such changes through health education programs, individual counseling, and corporate cultures that encourage healthy behaviors. Workplace efficiency is directly related to the productivity of the personnel employed and the healthier, happier, and more motivated the staff are, the more productive they become.

    Health awarness directly related to workplace efficiency

    In the fall of 2008, the authors interviewed 13 white Dutch male employees aged 23-56 years about their thoughts on what an ideal and/or real man is and how those perceptions related to workplace health promotion. The men worked in wide variety of divisions and the interviews lasted, on average, between one to one and a half hours. Key findings from the interviews identified that the “ideal man” is equated with being a winner and prepared to compete. The interviews also identified that real men are not whiners and ideally, not vulnerable.

    The authors concluded that competitiveness and nonchalant attitudes towards health shape masculine ideals. Therefore, male employees, particularly vulnerable ones, would benefit greatly from workplace health promotion programs that understood the pressures of health seeking behavior and masculinity. The study found that feminine norms involve taking care of your health and masculine norms involve challenging health. Relating a man's health and well-being to improved functioning in his work role increases the likelihood of participation and efficacy. Workplace health promotion programs that take these findings into consideration can more greatly impact the health of their male employees.

    Reference: BMC Public Health. 2010 Nov 19; 10: 712. Doing masculinity, not doing health? A qualitative study among dutch male employees about health beliefs and workplace physical activity. Verdonk P, Seesing H, de Rijk A. Institute for Public Health Genomics, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, School Caphri, Maastricht University, Universiteitssingel 5, 6229 ES Maasstricht, The Netherlands.

  • Discrimination against men?
    December 16, 2010

    In March 2010 President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) into law in the United States. Leading up to the passage of healthcare reform legislation by the United States Congress, President Obama was quoted in a variety of locations talking about the importance of preventative health screenings, for both women and men, including those for prostate cancer.
    In an August 11th, 2009 Portsmouth, New Hampshire Town Hall meeting President Barack Obama said, “We will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventative care…there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives; it also saves money – and we need to save money in this health care system.”
    On August 15th, 2009 during his Weekly Address, President Barack Obama said, “We'll require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventative care…because there's no reason we shouldn't be saving lives and dollars by catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end.”

    Men’s Health Crisis

    Despite these and other assurances, we have yet to see a firm commitment from the Administration to ensure prostate cancer screening is a part of any essential benefits package or recommended preventative health screenings for men in the United States. This is a problem because men over past decades have shown poorer health outcomes than women across all racial and ethnic groups as well as socioeconomic status.
    While this health crisis is of particular concern to men, it is also a concern for women regarding their fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers. In the United States men are faced with some grueling health data and statistics:

    • On average they live about 5 less years than women
    • 1 in 2 men, while 1 in 3 women, will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime
    • Men lead in 9 out of the 10 top ten causes of death

    The current realities and situation around men's health reinforces the need for increased attention, investment, and prioritization on the federal and international level.

    Specific Health Needs

    Of the many new offices, committees, task forces, agencies, and programs created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (healthcare reform) law, those implemented for the benefit of women's health greatly outnumber those for the benefit of men's health. There are at least 7 agencies and entities throughout the federal government devoted solely to women's health, while there are significantly less resources dedicated to the specific health needs of men. Instead of rectifying that disparity, the new health care law intensified it.
    Despite multiple introductions of excellent Office of Men’s Health bills over the last few years, Congress has failed to pass the bills and the White House has ignored the needs of men and their health. They have not felt the sense of urgency or need to address this critical issue affecting America’s families. However, federal agencies have been doing great work with the limited resources that they have and have been wonderful partners in outreach to men and their families. The employees within these agencies and positions should be commended. The Administration can easily fill this gap by creating an Office of Men’s Health at HHS, and should do so with the utmost speed.

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