'Men’s health is essential if we are serious about improving public health and new technologies can play a very significant role'
Full text of the speech by MHF CEO Peter Baker at the launch of 'Men's Health Week 2011: Get A Man Online' at White Hart Lane, London.
Many thanks for coming today.
It’s wonderful to see so many people here from our Men’s Health Week partner organisations and also many other good friends of the Men’s Health Forum.
This is the start of the 10th annual Men’s Health Week, and this year we’re doing something rather different. We’re not focusing on a specific health problem like cancer or obesity, as we have done in the past.
What we’re doing is a new twist on a theme we’ve been developing pretty much since the Men’s Health Forum was set up in 1994. Since then it’s become pretty clear that, if we are serious about improving men’s health, not only do we have to improve men’s use of traditional services, we also have to take services to where men are. That’s why we’ve put a lot of emphasis over the years on reaching men at work or through sport. Indeed, the men’s health programme here at Spurs is an excellent example of how to use the power of football to engage men in health.
For Men’s Health Week 2011, we’re aiming to reach men in a place that they are in vast numbers – the internet. National Statistics data for 2010 shows that 80% of men used the internet in the last three months. Of these men, 80% of used the internet every day or almost every day; 60% of men aged 65 and over used it every day or almost every day. Over 40% of these men also accessed the internet using a mobile phone or a handheld computer.
We also know there’s an upward trend in men using the internet to access health information. Over one third of men who used the internet in the last three months used it for this purpose. And that’s what we want to build on – we want to encourage more men to use digital technologies, mainly the internet but also apps, to access health information about any kind of health issue. One of our main aims is to get the proportion of men using the internet for health information up to 50% within two years.
I think that’s a very realistic objective. The internet is a medium that men are using now in vast numbers and with which most are very comfortable. Online health services are easy-to-access, easier than any other service I can think of, and mostly anonymous and confidential.
We’re not saying, of course, that the internet or apps should replace traditional services like the GP or the pharmacist. Men also need to use these services far more effectively than they do at present. Rather, we believe that the new technologies provide an opportunity for men to access information about lifestyle and health problems and make it more likely that they will go on to use other services, when they need to, more appropriately and in a more informed way.
What’s also vital is that men use services that are accurate and responsible, like our own malehealth website as well as NHS Choices, NHS Direct and many others. The new Mini Manual we’ve produced his week – it’s called Health Clicks - aims to signpost men to the reputable sites and away from the dodgy sites flogging dodgy drugs or dodgy devices.
It’s estimated that every year 330,000 men in the UK purchase counterfeit drugs, mostly from online sources. That’s an astonishing number. These men are not only at risk from whatever the supplier, who is after all a criminal, happens to put in the tablets, they are also at risk if their condition has not been properly diagnosed by a doctor. You can see how important this is by looking at one of the most common conditions for which men purchase drugs online, erectile dysfunction, otherwise known as ED. Men with ED are about one-and-a-half times more likely to experience a cardiovascular event within 10-years than men without ED. If a man self-treats for ED without being checked for the underlying conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, he could find himself in hospital – or worse – whether or not the drugs he buys turn out to be genuine.
As well as steering more men in the right direction, the Men’s Health Forum is also asking health providers to do more to use new technologies to reach men. It’s great news that NHS Choices has this week launched a new e-card for people to send health messages directly to the men in their lives. We also know that the NHS is beginning to develop apps aimed specifically at men, for example with truckers in the West Midlands. Pfizer’s Man MOT service, which the Men’s Health Forum is delighted to support, enables men to chat live to GPs and other health experts every Monday evening and every evening during Men’s Health Week. BUPA is providing a similar service for men this week via social media. These are exactly the kinds of services that we think should be more widely available.
We also want to see men – and women too, of course – given the opportunity to make appointments with their GP online. We know that many men are deterred by the current bookings process, by having to phone up at 8am when they may be at work or on their way to work and having to negotiate with a receptionist. Some GPs now enable their patients to book appointments online so why can’t all of them?
I’d like to draw your attention to some of the fantastic things that are happening this week. I’ve already mentioned what Pfizer, NHS Choices and BUPA are doing as well as our new Health Clicks booklet. If you’ve got an iPhone, take a look at our new app, Bloke Noises, and send a squelchy-sounding health message to your male friends.
Nuffield Health and Fitness and Harpers Fitness are this week offering men free passes to their leisure centres.
There will also be hundreds of local events up-and-down the country. In Blackpool, for example, the NHS PitStop project will be offering men free MOTs and an opportunity to try Tag Rugby. In the Midlands, Melton Borough Council is laying on a Men on the Move programme that includes workouts, five-as-side football and basketball sessions for men. In Charnwood in Leicestershire, men can take part in special guided walks, bowls and golf sessions during the week. North Somerset Council is offering men blood pressure checks and fitness level checks using a Nintendo Wii.
There also events in Durham, Great Yarmouth and Leeds, where Age UK is offering men a free Nintendo Wii day where they can play ten pin bowling, archery, canoeing, cycling and Wii Fit balance games.
More widely, the BMA in Northern Ireland has just published a report on men’s health which calls for a comprehensive inter-agency policy on men’s health and, tomorrow, the EU will publish a report on men’s health, highlighting the problems across Europe. This report is a taster for a fuller report which will be launched next month.
So there’s a lot happening this week, locally, nationally and internationally. Please tell everyone you can about what’s happening to help us make sure as many people as possible hear the key messages.
This really matters because, despite the improvements in male life expectancy announced last week, men’s health in many ways and in many places remains unnecessarily poor. In Manchester, a man still has about a 50:50 chance of reaching the age of 75. Across England and Wales, 42% of men die before they reach 75. There is a six year difference in life expectancy at birth between the richest and poorest men in England and Wales.
If we look at one of the big killers, cancer, men are 40% more likely to die than women from any cancer. For the cancers that men and women share, like bowel and stomach cancer, men are 70% more likely to die. This excess burden of cancer in men is not biological: it is because men have less healthy lifestyles than women, are less aware of symptoms and are almost certainly diagnosed later.
So men’s health is not just a nice thing to do …. It’s an essential thing to do if we are serious about improving public health in this country and I believe that new technologies can play a very significant role.
Men’s Health Week 2011 would not be possible without all our sponsors and partners. The Men’s Health Forum owes a special thank you to all of them. But I do want to mention in particular Tottenham Hotspur Foundation for so generously supporting today’s launch event and enabling us to combine two of men’s favourite activities, using computers and football.
I want to thank Ayan for chairing and all the speakers, who are donating their valuable time to this good cause, not least Gary Mabbutt. Both my sons are avid Spurs supporters and will be hugely impressed by the fact that I’ve been on the same platform as one of their heroes. I want to thank the Department of Health, the Royal Mail and Pfizer for their exceptional level of financial and other support. NHS Choices, the MHRA, Connecting for Health and BUPA also deserve a particular mention but please do take a moment to look at the full list of partners in the information pack.
Finally, I want to mention FD Sante, who have provided our PR support and 85 Four who have developed the Bloke Noises app and a wealth of new web content for us. I also have to thank my colleague Kristin McCarthy for once again pulling together such a hugely impressive and wide range of activities. Without her massive contribution, there would literally be no Men’s Health Week.
And once again, I want to thank all of you for coming and for your commitment to working with us to tackle what is still one of the largest and most challenging health inequalities.
Page created on June 14th, 2011
Page updated on June 17th, 2011