'World Male Day' to Focus Attention on Men's Health Issues
LONDON (Reuters Health) Nov 01
The United Nations has named November 3 "World Male Day." On that day, the International Society for Men's Health and the European Men's Health Forum will be launched, and the First World Congress on Men's Health will begin in Vienna, Austria.
These events are happening none too soon, editorialists say in the November 3rd issue of the British Medical Journal. "There is an urgent need to advertise and promote men's health in a positive way," write Dr. Siegfried Meryn of the University of Vienna and Dr. Alejandro R. Jadad of the University of Toronto in Canada.
Of particular concern, they note, is the higher mortality rates that men experience for all 15 leading causes of death and their significantly shorter life expectancy compared with women.
One obstacle to improving men's health, writes Dr. Ian Banks, of the European Men's Health Forum in London, is their delay in presenting to a physician when they have health problems. He attributes this behavior in part to the "male-unfriendly" atmosphere of the general health practice, in which most receptionists and nurses are women and reception areas cater to the needs of women and children, rarely to those of men.
Dr. Banks points out that men are given less of a physician's time during a health visit than women are. One study found, he says, that whereas breast self-examinations are discussed by 86% of physicians when seeing women, only 29% routinely provide instruction on testicular self-examination to men.
"The goals of the World Congress on Men's Health are to highlight the issues surrounding men's health, which are pretty common throughout the developed world," Dr. Banks told Reuters Health in a telephone interview after he arrived in Vienna for the Congress. "That is, men tend to use health services poorly, so that problems common to men and women have a worse prognosis in men because they're picked up much later."
Dr. Banks noted that presenters at the Congress "hope to impress on governments the need to improve health services for men. In school, for instance, in the UK there is not one single comic directed toward adolescent boys that deals with sex or relationship issues, whereas there are many comics for girls that deal with those issues."
He continued, "So boys very quickly get the impression that health is a women's issue, rather than men's, even that men shouldn't talk about health issues because you're less of a man if you do so."
Dr. Banks believes that individual physicians need to take responsibility for the negative impression they may leave with men. He explained, "The way that doctors are trained is very macho, in that we're taught to never admit that we're wrong, to always say that we know what to do, to be very self-reliant. The way we're trained can impact on the way we interact with male patients."