Men’s Health Week
Men’s Health Week, celebrated annually during the week ending on Father’s Day as recognized in the USA, honors the importance of the health and wellness of boys and men. Father’s Day was chosen as the anchor to make use of the extra attention paid to male family members near that holiday.
Men’s Health Week provides an opportunity to educate the public about what can be done to improve the state of men’s health while providing free and convenient health services to boys and men who wouldn’t otherwise receive such care. The response has been overwhelming, generating thousands of awareness activities in the USA and around the globe.
Men’s Health Week was created by Congress in 1994 to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. The bills creating Men’s Health Week were sponsored by former Senator Bob Dole and former Congressman Bill Richardson.
The sponsors cited the cost-effectiveness of a shift from treatment to prevention in health care emphasis when presenting the bill. The supporters of Men’s Health Week also noted that prevention requires public awareness and designating a week would spread information on preventing illnesses affecting males, which includes nationwide events and screenings.
“I especially thank the Men’s Health Network for tireless efforts on behalf of this legislation,” Congressman Bill Richardson (NM), upon Congressional passage of Men’s Health Week in 1994.
In the USA, the governors of the states and territories in the USA have adopted the week, as have Native American leaders and the mayors of many of the major cities. Those proclamations are displayed on the Men’s Health Week website. Typical Men’s Health Week events include educational lectures by sports figures, free health screenings, health fairs, and seminars.
Men’s Health Week events are planned so that they are easily attended even by men with a full work schedule. Although not officially recognized by Congress, men’s health activists observe Men’s Health Month throughout June.
Men’s Health Network (MHN) was cosponsor of the first World Congress on Men’s Health, held in Vienna, Austria in 2001. One of the goals set by MHN for that event was to establish a global network of health activists that would recognize a common men’s health wellness period based on the well established Men’s Health Week (MHW) in the USA.
This concept gained general acceptance and, again led by Men’s Health Network, representatives from several leading men’s health organizations from around the world met at the 2nd World Congress in 2002 and resolved to work together on International Men’s Health Week (IMHW), to be recognized yearly at the same time as MHW in the USA.
MHN hosts the www.InternationalMensHealthWeek.org web page while some participating countries have their own country-specific Men’s Health Week page while other efforts have very little web presence. Some other countries,regions may celebrate Men’s Health Week and Men’s Health Month at other times in the year.
Unusually this is not a campaign about a condition, rather one targeted towards half the population. But there is a real need for it. We know that men die younger, smoke more, drink more alcohol and ignore symptoms more than women. And many people say to me “So what?”And I reply it is inexcusable in this day and age to die prematurely through ignorance or not feeling like you can access healthcare adequately.
Most men know the score around diet, exercise, alcohol and smoking but can be high-risk individuals when it comes to health, and as a GP I know this all too well. That fear – and I am not sure if it is fear of illness or fear of being judged or both of the doctor opening up a cornucopia of illnesses when you only popped in because you wanted a quick fix for the bad back you’ve put up with for six months, is not to be underestimated. And the number of men who attend the GP saying: “I’m only here because the Mrs., my partner, daughter forced me to make an appointment” is as common as rain on a British bank holiday.
Of course in most cultures, men are taught to cope with stuff and just get on with it from an early age. They have not had the same long-term relationship with doctors surgeries as women (smear tests, contraception, antenatal care etc). And there are still no mandatory health checks for men in the NHS. Time too is a factor. We are all so busy these days. Should medical facilities be made available nearer one’s workplace to make it easier for men to access healthcare?
The main thing is that as a profession we should try to increase awareness around preventing illness, not just acting on symptoms early. I’m not even sure if general practice is the right setting for promoting health to men. Many men seek health advice on the internet. That’s fine as long as what they’re consuming is reliable information such as that on the NHS Choices website. But the web is also used to order fake medication, much of which is potentially harmful.
The internet used appropriately is better than not seeking health information, but it just isn’t the same as direct face-to-face health advice, promotion and education. I was very happy to hear some schools local to me had welcomed education sessions on testicular cancer awareness as well as offering chlamydia screening to sixth formers with high turnouts. This type of inadvertent positive peer pressure is probably a good thing anything that raises awareness. And for that to happen, health promotion and feeling able to talk to someone about health issues needs to be made more accessible to men, which could mean through sports and football clubs and the workplace, not just their local surgery.
A sea change is occurring, albeit slowly. For example, the message that erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a major warning sign for cardiovascular disease is definitely getting through – slowly but surely. But there’s a long way to go. In an ideal world, finding simple, easy ways of modifying risk factors would spur men into preventing ED and cardiovascular disease in the first place. It’s a work in progress.
You’ve likely heard the excuses — maybe you’ve made them yourself:
- “I’m too busy.”
- “I’m not sick. I feel fine. I’ll go to the doctor when I’m sick.”
- “I don’t have time.”
- “What does a doctor know?”
- “If something is wrong, I don’t want to know about it.”
But ignorance isn’t bliss and unless we make time for our health, the consequence may be death. Women are more likely to see a doctor than men, which is why, according to the APA, on average, men die five years earlier than women. Men are also 1.5 times more likely to succumb to heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease than women. While genes certainly play a role in one’s health, regular screenings can go a long way to prevent many diseases even before the first symptom . June 12-18 is Men’s Health Week, the week leading up to and including Father’s Day. What better time to encourage the special men in your life to get screened for early detection and disease prevention.
Consider these statistics from the Centers for Disease Control:
- 34.5 percent of men 20 years & over are obese
- 32.6 percent of men 20 years & over have hypertension (measured high blood pressure and/or taking antihypertensive medication)
- Every year, more than 300,000 men in the U.S. lose their lives to cancer
- The most common kinds of cancer among men in the U.S. are skin cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer. More men die from lung cancer, most often caused by cigarettes, than any other type of cancer. Colorectal cancer can be prevented with timely screenings
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, killing 321,000 men in 2013—that’s 1 in every 4 male deaths
- Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. Yet even without symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease
- Between 70 percent and 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men
Before we married my husband absolutely refused to see a doctor. He was too busy. He felt fine. He didn’t have time. Whatever was hurting him would eventually stop. He made every excuse in the book. But after we married and had our first child, he realized that his health didn’t just affect him; it affected his entire family.
If he neglected to take care of himself, then he hurt not only himself, but his wife and children. So, he began scheduling yearly check-ups, seeking out medical help when necessary, eating healthy, and working out regularly. While I’m thankful my husband has decided to make his health a priority, unfortunately, most men do not.
Not all men are motivated to prioritize their health, but a doctor can help prevent health problems before they even start by recommending treatment options for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes and advising cancer screenings, immunizations, and other health testing at appropriate times.
Women, let’s encourage (not nag!) our men to visit the doctor. They may need some gentle prodding, so schedule an appointment for them, offer an enticing incentive, or turn their doctor’s appointment into a date. This year let’s refute the excuses and make our men’s health a priority. Just don’t wait until it’s too late.
This letter comes purely out of love and concern. And being that this week is Men’s Health Week, I have the perfect excuse for writing it. It troubles me that you don’t pay attention to your health and see a doctor regularly or schedule appointments when you need them.
It’s a fact that we women are the ones who make the vast majority of health care decisions for our families. But I need you to give me a hand here. Your reluctance and hesitation don’t just affect your health and well-being; they affect both of us.
For one, if you do nothing, it puts all the worry on me. I know that’s not your intention but that’s the outcome. And for another, if you’re not healthy, how can we do all the things we love to do and share together? Think about travel, exercise, sex all things that are compromised or made impossible by bad health.
I’m not pulling out these facts to scare you, but imagine my worry when I see these statistics: Men live an average of seven years less than women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. men are 1.5 times more likely than women to die from heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases.
Are you concerned about hearing potentially bad news? I understand that might be worrisome; but try looking at the other side of that. Preventive health care is called that for a really good reason. It can find problems before they start and prevent many of them. It can also help a doctor discover a condition or disease at an early stage, when it’s much more treatable and manageable.
So, let’s partner up. I’m happy to help you locate a doctor. I’ll even go with you, if you’d like. We can, together, learn about your health and any screenings you may need, like those for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. How about we plan something really fun afterward?
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