Thursday, August 04, 2011

Beer really does make men talk about health

Being a healthy living chap I found myself at the Great British Beer Festival this week. It's a huge event currently at Earl's Court in London.

If you read about the MHF's work you will see that one issue for us is how to get more men interested in their health.

The Campaign for Real Ale, organisers of the festival, seems to have cracked it. Name bars after big names in health and medicine, for example, there is the Snow bar (my favourite story in public health history) and the Seacole bar.

Before finding the page in the programme that explains the bar names many men (and a fair few women) were heard talking about the theme and the names they recognised.

Maybe a lesson for us all!

Find the names of the bars and the stories behind them on the GBBF website.

Monday, June 06, 2011

'A louder voice in men's health' - Participation opportunity at the Men's Health Forum

Do you want to help to improve men’s health in England and Wales?

Do you want to help to shape the policy agenda in this area?

Do you want to make your voice as a patient heard?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you might be interested in our new participation opportunity...

We are currently recruiting volunteers who have used NHS services in England and Wales, to become members of our MHF Advisory Panel.

At the Men's Health Forum we produce a range of publications on health conditions, healthy lifestyles and wellbeing. We also work on health policy, responding to consultations and putting forward our ideas about how the health inequalities experienced by men should best be tackled.

We already consult men about our work informally, but now we would like to establish an MHF Advisory Panel to consult on key aspects of our activities. We are looking for a diverse range if participants from all walks of life to take part.

If you think you might be interested, click here and we will send you more details.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sounding the changes

Hopefully you've seen that the MHF is recruiting. The deadline for one of the posts is still a week away, so if you're the right person to join the crack team as Head of Business & Service Development you've a long weekend to refine your application.

The lucky person will join us at our office in London SE1, in the streets where BBC 6 Music filmed their advert currently on BBC tv.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Health bill must tackle inequalities

Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley, giving control to GPs.
The MHF highlighted areas where the government's health bill needs amending so that it delivers on the warm words about inequalities. GP newspaper has now picked up on this, highlighting that we should not miss this opportunity.

However, the government is still under pressure - just days after coalition partners the Liberal Democrats called for changes to the bill, BMA doctors will meet to do that same and possibly more.

Many are hoping that the bill that goes on to debated by all MPs will be different to the one the committee started with.

A committee of MPs is studying the details of the government's bill until the end of March, so there is still time to contact your MP about it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A brief thought on role of the voluntary sector in the new Health and Social Care structures

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here and it's probably a huge understatement to say a lot has happened on the health and social care policy front! This government is certainly keen to expedite the rate at which they legislate!

Recently a number of policy documents particularly relevant to men’s health have been published: the cancer strategy, mental health strategy and of course the Public Health White Paper - consultation on which concludes at the end of March. Additionally, the Health and Social Care Bill is making its way through the parliamentary stages.

When we pause to breathe, it’s important to reflect on the role of the voluntary sector in the new health and social care structures. A couple of things are clear - national voluntary sector organisations will have to become much more proficient at engaging on a local level, and local voluntary sector organisations will have to become even more proficient at having their voices heard, to influence local Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA).

Influencing the JSNA will be key, if seldom heard and marginalised groups are to be considered in local commissioning and service delivery. A huge emphasis will be placed on using the JSNA to provide a blueprint to guide local commissioning. If the local VCS can’t campaign to have its needs included here, they are likely to be marginalised further. It is a concern that there is no current requirement to have a voluntary sector representative on Local Authority Health and Wellbeing Boards (those who will oversee the development of JSNAs). This lack of representation feels like a backward step in many ways. Those of us who work in the voluntary sector will have to work hard to explore other avenues to ensure we make our mark on local JSNAs.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Who really benefits from the 'man flu' jibes?

Happy new year everyone. Apologies for the lack of posts but yes, I've had 'flu. Was it 'man flu'? I don't think so and I'm sure my girlfriend who also had it - worse than me - would agree.

However, the suspicion remains that men make a lot of fuss about nothing. Do we? Frankly I couldn't care less. What does worry me is that men already visit the doctors less than women and the fear of looking like whinging malingerers might deter them further. Our snap survey on the latest Boots advert suggests that many of you agree - although perhaps not for the same reasons.

Much excitement in many news outlets including the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail - where they call men wimps - about a survey suggesting South Korean men 'overrate' the symptoms of a cold. Maybe but key point may be to be found in the final buried paragraphs. The researchers suggest Korean men might get more colds than women because they tend to be the main bread winners, and hence 'may experience higher levels of work-related strerrors'.

The Mail quotes Dr Olivia Carlton, president of the Society of Occupational Medicine who described the findings were a wake-up call for employers. Dr John Hobson, editor of the scientific journal Occupational Medicine said men with colds 'may be under work-related stress, which is something that an employer or manager may be able to do something about.'

Indeed, conspiracy theorists might suggest the whole 'man flu' business is an employers' ruse to get us all into work.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Delivering Male

This is rarely the happiest time of year, the weather's grim and with Christmas gone there's little to look forward to.

However, I was cheered by the coverage in today's Times on men and depression. It sounds wrong to say that, so I'll explain.

Each of the articles making up the feature, which spreads over several pages, is positive. From Alastair Campbell on how he's managed through his working life, David Baddiel about his top tip to the wise words of Dr Mark Porter. There's a challenge in dealing with depression, individually and as a health professional but with the right approach it can be dealt with.

The Times feature was inspired by the new report from the Forum and our friends at Mind, Delivering Male. The report's heavyweight stuff which, for the first time, sets out guidance on tackling the mental well-being of men and boys. It's the latest in the Men's Health Forum's work on mental health.

Read the report and follow us on twitter.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Monday, December 06, 2010

What do you know about the prostate?

If the answer's 'not much' then you're not alone. Here's a brilliantly simple idea from the European Men's Health Forum. Your Prostate is a website where you can ask questions about your prostate - peeing, sexual problems, disturbed sleep, supplements, cancer, anything at all. You can even ask what a prostate does. You'll get fast, free, confidential replies from specialist nurses and doctors.

By asking your question, you'll also be helping with a research project - and this is the bit that's so simple you wonder why nobody thought of it before - to find out what European men want to know about a subject we know we find it difficult to talk about. Yes, instead of doctors assuming they know what we want to know, this time they're asking us first. The results will be used by the EMHF to design some health education materials. To be effective though this project needs as many questions as possible so please, ask yours.

Questions and answers in English, Spanish and German so tell your friends across the world.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The public health white paper with little information for the public?

Version 2.
I realised Version 1 was strikingly similar to my post about the NHS white paper in the summer.

In that post I argued that there were few surprises but many gaps. I think we can say the same about Healthy lives, healthy people.

Combine the secretary of state’s various public health speeches, the coalition agreement and aspects of the NHS white paper with news coverage on Sunday and Monday and you are most of the way there. As the HSJ reports.

Then there seems to be a lot missing. Again, as the HSJ reports and as president of the Royal College of Physicians said in The Guardian.

What’s missing is how the state of men’s health will be tackled.

As well as transferring powers to councils and incentivising GPs we need to see policies and programmes that seek to address men’s health and support , not only for those devising and delivering this work but also for men themselves.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The State of Men's Health

It started as a simple idea - produce an over view briefing for the first big meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Men's Health of the new parliament.

In compiling the statistics for the MHF's new publication, the State of Men's Health, I realised just how long it had been since we last produced such a doucment. Most of the Forum's work is project based, such as our current work on men and bowel cancer screening, or themed to a particular issue, such as Men's Health Week 2011 on health on the net.

I also saw that the dry numbers tell a tragic tale - men's lives are too short. Well, the government is re-organising the NHS and about to over-haul public health policy so it is an important time to tell this story.

The MHF's Lives Too Short campaign was launched yesterday, the MHF team were on BBC tv and radio 5Live as well as just about every local BBC radio station in England. By the time we got to the launch event, the All Party Group's autumn reception, everyone knew about it. Or at least thought they did.

We were so grateful that the BBC recognised the scale of the problem and acted accordingly but while it aggravates many of the issues raised, the campaign is about so much more than men avoiding the GP.

Read more about Lives Too Short.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Depressing work but you can help

The MHF will launch a new campaign in early November. This will highlight the poor state of men's health across a whole range of measures. It will be the first time for quite a while we have done something like this - most of the Forum's work is project based so our reports and events focus on one disease area or type of service.

The work has been depressing frankly. Every sentence another bleak statement of men's lives too short.

On the positive side the MHF's done a lot of the work needed to show how to tackle the problems - our publications report on the policy and practice development work we have done.

Later in this new campaign we'll be looking at people's own stories. You can help with this, if you can't maybe someone you know can.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Choice and control and the 'Information revolution'

The Department of Health consultations are coming in thick and fast at the moment. A couple of weeks ago we submitted our response to the NHS White Paper- 'Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS'.

We called for the establishment of a Gender Equalities Board within the NHS Commissioning Board, to ensure that gender health inequalities are tackled throughout the NHS.
You can read our full response to the White Paper and our top ten 'asks' for men's health here.

Today the Department of Health has asked for feedback on the 'Choice and control' and 'Information revolution' proposals. You can find more information and download the consultation documents here.

We will be examining these consultations before the closing date of Jan 14th and we will report back here with our thoughts, so watch this space.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Men's health sent to Coventry

In actual fact the title of this post doesn't bear a lot of relevance to what I want to say, I just quite liked the sound of it! Thankfully, men's health hasn't been 'sent to Coventry' in the normal sense of the phrase. Rather, it has been picked up and championed, by Coventry City Council.

Last week MHF and Coventry City Council held a conference on men's health at Warwick University . The subtile of the event was 'A fresh start' and that is indeed what the day felt like.

130 delegates attended and heard from both local and national experts in the area (see here for full conference report) and it was encouraging to see such energy in the room. The last session of the day was an interactive discussion, with lots of attendees sharing examples of best practice.

One of the things for us as a national organisation to think about, is how to harness this energy and experience and how to keep an oversight of all the examples of good practice in working with men. This is especially relevant now, given the forthcoming changes to the structures of the NHS.

One of the ideas we are working on, is the development of a national database to capture examples of good practice, but there must be other ways too.

Any musings or suggestions on this are gratefully accepted. Just leave a comment below.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What people get up to with Viagra

Or rather, the different ways journalists report Viagra related news.

The news was of more growth at Tesco, this time it is that Viagra will join baked beans, TVs and insurance.

The BBC announced Tesco to sell 'cut-price' Viagra:
The supermarket Tesco says it is to start selling Viagra over the counter at the 'cheapest price'.
It was a relatively straight-lace piece, that mentions the potential dangers of buying drugs online.

Others took a different approach. Blogger turned presenter on talk radio station LBC, Iain Dale, asked 'Whatever next?'. I was out that evening so did not get to hear his audience's thoughts, or whether the question related to the availability of ED treatments or Tesco's own expansion.

Few will be surprised that the Mirror and the Daily Telegraph take different approaches to the same story.

I think the Mirror's columnist Derek McGovern had fun writing a Carry On-esque piece which opens with a police request for help finding the 'hardened criminals' who have stolen the store's first shipment before he moves on to predicting a price war 'leading prices to go down and everything else to go up'.

The Telegraph worries about Viagra's effects... Its effects on pensions. Ian Cowie's blog posting opens:
Tesco’s plan to follow high street rival Boots and start selling Viagra next week without a doctor’s prescription could be a bad idea, according to pensions experts. Yes, that’s right; pensions experts.
Their concern is that men are living longer and upsetting long established calculations based on men dropping dead before receiving too much of their pension. Which shows how society accepted men's poor life expectancy.

The reasons Ian Cowie suggests for men living longer are central to the MHF's work and reflect the concerns in a campaign some years ago calling for GPs to have a little more leeway in prescribing ED treatments. More men might see their GP about health problems if they think they will come away with the drug they want. Whether or not the drug's prescribed they might have some underlying heart disease diagnosed which could help them live longer.

He does raise an interesting question - will men still see their GP and have the cause of their erection problems diagnosed if they can get the drugs over the counter after a couple of short questions with all the convenience that brings?    

There's info on ED on malehealth and on men's access to services on the MHF's site.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Guardian and discuss cycling among middle-aged men

The last month hasn't exactly been summer cycling weather, unless you have waterproofs and mudguards but there are a lot more people cycling these days and apparently many are middle aged men.

As The Guardian asks, is this about fitness or flash gear (and what about the babysitter)? The survey that prompted the Guardian's article also said that many new cyclists were Waitrose shopping broadsheet readers. The Guardian's bike blog suggests that for some, very wealthy, men it is about the gear.

A visit to the forums at (yes, the fast motors website!) indicates that for many men it is about exercise. Also, the government's cycle to work scheme has encouraged them to build exercise into their daily lives - something central to this year's Men's Health Week - see

There are loads of organised cycle rides these days, even the MHF's Matt Maycock and Peter Baker have done the London to Brighton ride (I take the train!). Perhaps these have encouraged people to start too.

What we do know is, whether you're a middle-class and middle-aged man who's pushed the cycle to work scheme to its £1000 limits or younger, shop at Asda and spent your own hard earned, cycling is good for your health.

So good you even have fewer sick days!

Which raises the question why don't more employers offer cycling facilities and the cycle to work scheme and why has the taxman just made the scheme less good?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Why we need the Men's Health Forum

This isn't about blowing our own trumpet but about the challenges we face.

We have distributed over a million of our men's health mini-manuals so it was good to receive the latest bit of feedback through our website.
Thank you for the wonderful MAN MANUAL booklet I picked up at the Chelsea & Westminster hospital. I have enjoyed very much the whole booklet and the simple way the book explains everything and how logical it all is. I really do believe all males should read this and only wish I had got a copy sometime ago before I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, really helpful and outstanding read, thank you all.
mini manual spread
That was fantastic to receive but we still have a lot to do to get men to get advice as early as possible and for services to be more welcoming.

The MHF is working on ways to improve men's use of the new bowel cancer screening programme. This summer we've had two reminders of why we need this and why despite our successes getting these programmes launched there is still a lot to do on the ground.

This week ITV West Country Tonight covered the story of a man from Gloucestershire who had the symptoms of bowel cancer for six months before doing getting them checked. You can still watch their interview with Derrick Daley.

Earlier in the summer the Eastern Daily Press covered a near identical story in Norfolk. Ernie Childs was sent a bowel cancer test but ignored it for months.

How would you get men to get checked sooner and how can services be more male friendly?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is breast best for showing the importance of cancer awareness?

Much of the news today about breast cancer is focusing on how successful that screening programme has been but some is looking at the role of lifestyles and awareness - two issues whose importance is not limited to breast cancer. The news is based on a study in the BMJ, and is much more solid than the news yesterday that UK breast cancer rates are four times higher than those in Eastern Africa. That figure is dissected in Dr Chris Hiley's blog.

On BBC News this morning Professor Dame Valerie Beral mentioned the importance of awareness and early presentation before screening in tackling breast cancer. This is not just linked to women and cancer however.

The Forum has long highlighted the shocking difference in cancer rates between men and women. When working with Cancer Research UK, the National Cancer Intelligence Network and others, the most likely reason for the difference is thought to be men's tendency to recognise symptoms later and go to their doctor later.

Encouraging men to take more responsibility is a good thing but if we do not also improve awareness of possible cancer symptoms and make primary care more male friendly we will not succeed in reducing men's high rates of cancer.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Have your say on the government's plans for the NHS

At the Men's Health Forum, we have just started work on planning our response to the government's plans for the NHS. The deadline for submission is in early October, so we are juggling things around so that no-one works during their holidays!

Colin mentioned some of the changes that the government is proposing in his post below. Since writing that, the government have published further consultation documents on GP commissioning, the new role of local authorities in public health and the outcomes that NHS professionals will be working towards.

As we plan our response, it would be useful to know your opinions on some of the proposed changes. If you have a spare 5 minutes, we would be grateful if you tell us what you think about the main changes Colin mentions in his post below.



Friday, July 23, 2010

What men do online

Regular readers of the MHF's website will know that we were shortlisted as charity of the year in the Medical Journalists' Association's awards.

MHF with other charities and Dr Pixie McKenna, from the
TV programme Embarassing Bodies, at the MJA Awards
Sadly we did not win; the honour went to Sense About Science. I was able to have a good chat with them about our plans for National Men's Health Week 2011. This will focus on using technology to improve men's health and will include issues like understanding what's reliable information online.

We are still thrashing this out, to be honest, and had a meeting about it this week. The Forum's award winning health info website, malehealth, is incredibly popular and the government's plans for health state they want to make more use of technology. However, there are unanswered questions about what the government really means by this and also about how you can really encourage better use of health on the internet without increasing the numbers of people panicked by an internet diagnosis?

None of that however in the exciting new online health service for men launching next week. It's backed by the MHF along with others including Diabetes UK, Relate and the National Obesity Forum. Find out more on the Forum's own site on Monday!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

White paper a blank page?

So 24 hours after their publication what do we know about the government's plans for NHS? Surprisingly little that we didn't know before.

There was little more detail about GPs holding the purse strings in Equity and excellence: liberating the NHS than in The Coalition: our programme for government. There was however, a fair bit more about public health.

In many ways this is understandable, in scrapping primary care trusts you need to design something else, in this case a Public Health Service and more work for local authorities. Then there's a bit missing - a plan for public health is not due until the autumn, although Andrew Lansley has set out his vision.

The Forum has been a little concerned by plans to give GPs more public health responsibilities. As we've found, men's use of traditional primary care is poor and services need to reach those who tend to avoid seeking help until it is too late.

We are optimistic about the duties of the National Commissioning Board. But will it really deliver on tackling inequalities in access and outcomes? Where GPs need to act on these issues will they really have the scale to do so, even when they are formed into consortia?

On men's health there is a lot they can do but will they have the time and money to first look at what works or will they spend the budget the treasury has entrusted to them failing to re-invent the wheel before disappearing back to the safety of their practices?

Charity websites: one screen, many audiences

Kaye Wiggins makes some good points about charity websites in her Third Sector blog. Apparently 60% of visits to charity websites result in users failing to find what they're looking for.

We're trying to deal with that on the MHF site with our 'my role' buttons on the top right of the home page. Clearly we should be developing the idea.

Kaye says: 'The problem for many charities is that they are unsure whether their websites are for their donors, their beneficiaries or both.' Or, should something be bigged up the home page just to keep one visitor - albeit a funder - happy?

Kaye could have added a related problem which is that charities are unsure whether their sites should reflect the world as they want it to be or the world as it is. When it comes to Men's Health Week for example we like to tell visitors about our great policies and research. But, apparently, they're mainly looking for free posters.

Are we trying to tell everyone how valuable and important the MHF is - and it is - or just help others do their jobs? Is it method of service delivery in itself or simply a shop window? And, the question that all website editors ask: is the resource devoted to a charity's website proportionate to its true importance?

What do you think of the MHF website?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Coalition government's vision for Public Health

The government’s plans for Public Health are taking shape. We have known since the publication of the Conservative’s Green Paper on Health ( 'A Healthier Nation') in January of this year, that if elected, the Conservatives planned to replace the Department of Health with the Department of Public Health.

Further details of the coalition government's Public Health plans are now beginning to emerge. The Health Secretary spoke last week at the Faculty of Public Health’s annual conference, about his vision for Public Health.

Andrew Lansley spoke about putting in place a new ‘framework which empowers people to make the changes that will really make a difference to the nation’s lives.’

Amongst other measures, he spoke about making more use of the voluntary sector locally. This obviously has the potential to impact positively on the sector, but how this might work is not yet clear.

Mr. Lansley has also stated that he wants to establish a new responsibility deal between Government and business ‘built on shared social responsibility and not state regulation’. This measure must be approached with caution. We know that state regulation can play an important part in improving Public Health. The smoking ban is a good example of this.

Click here to read our full news story

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

New report draws on MHF's work on health at work

2020health has just published their report on health and work, Health, disease and unemployment. It refers to the work the Forum did around National Men's Health Week 2008 when we focused on men and work.

In Improving male health by taking action in the workplace we called for business and the NHS to work together to deliver male friendly health services in the workplace. We also returned to a theme in our 2006 work on men's mental well-being - the effects both positive and negative - that work can have. So I am pleased to see that their top recommendation is that:

It would therefore seem sensible for the first aim of any policy change to make it in the interests of the individual, the employer, and society at large to align the incentives and close the loop between health, illness, and unemployment.

I went to one of the workshops that 2020health held whilst working on their report. It was a good event with a range of professions and organisations represented so it is good to see issues raised at that event reflected in the paper - and not only those I raised!

You can download Health, disease and unemployment or read more on 2020health's blog.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What day is it? Where am I?

I was convinced I'd woken up to find the last three months were a nightmare, involving shopping, and today is 1st April.

Part of my work as external affairs officer for the Forum is media monitoring. Which lead me to read Sex and shopping – how retail therapy really is bad for men's health and fertility in the Daily Telegraph and the only conclusion was that I had just woken up on April fool's day.
Researchers have found that a chemical compound found on some till receipts contains enough of the hazardous substance Bisphenol A (BPA) to suppress male hormones in the body.
Can till receipts really make men impotent? Surely men can't be even more intuitive than thought and know that shopping is bad for them? It must be nonsense, but no:
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supports its removal and has stated concerns regarding the impact of the chemical on babies and young children.
I look forward to commentary on Behind the Headlines on the NHS Choices website. Until then, it's lunchtime, and I need a few bits at the shops.

For another take on the issue, read Jim Pollard's post on the malehealth editor's blog.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Budget 2010

The speculation is over and we now know where the government axe will fall on public spending.

The Chancellor George Osborne termed his first budget ‘harsh but fair’ saying that it was necessary, to eliminate the structural deficit by the end of this parliament’s term.

For those of us working in the voluntary sector, the question on everyone’s lips is understandably ‘how will this affect us?’

There are a number of measures announced today that will have a big impact on the voluntary sector.
We have examined the potential effect of these changes on the voluntary sector.

You can read our analysis and access our printable briefing paper here. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

National Men's Health Week 2010

Monday 14th June sees the start of National Men's Health Week. This year, it focuses on physical activity. We want 1 million men to become more active by 2012. Is this a tall order? We don't think so.

This year, Men's Health Week coincides with the first full week of the World Cup. Research from the University of Loughborough tells us that one in ten fans will drink 20 cans and 20 pints of beer, while one in seven fans will eat ten pizzas during the tournament.

So it's worth encouraging the football fans you know and work with to take an occasional break for some exercise and healthy food, while still enjoying all the action.

By the time our launch event comes around at West Ham football club on Monday evening, we'll know what sort of start England have had. Will supporters still be celebrating after a resounding victory against the USA? We'll jut have to wait and see.

Find out more here about National Men's Health Week 2010 and register to receive promotional materials.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

MHF voluntary sector work

My name is Áine Duggan and I co-ordinate the strategic partnership programme of work for the MHF. This programme of work is all about engaging voluntary sector organisations in the agenda around men’s health and gender and health inequalities.

We have had a busy few months getting the strategic partnership programme up and running and there are lots of exciting plans in the pipeline.

Over the past few months we have been working to carry out a mapping exercise of men’s health activities in the third sector in the London borough of Greenwich. This is to help us to understand what is happening in the third sector and how to engage organisations in men’s health.

Over the next year we will be working to build a network of third sector organisations that have an interest in the area of men’s health.

You can find out more information about our voluntary sector work here and if you would like to get involved in the project, feel free to contact me on aine.duggan[at symbol]menshealthforum[dot]org[dot]uk.