Kuching sparks interest in men's health

WONCA would like to establish a Special Interest Group on Men's Health. If you are interested please contact the WONCA CEO, Dr Garth Manning [email protected].  In this article, Alan White, Professor of Men's Health, Leeds Beckett University writes on Men's Health resources and a workshop held in Kuching:

At the recent WONCA Asia Pacific region conference in Kuching, there was a lot of interest in the presentation on Men’s Health that had been organized in collaboration with the International Society for Men’s Health (ISMH). Family physicians tend to see men when they are ill, whereas they have a much more on-going relationship with women – covering prevention, screening, mother and child care alongside disease management. Recent reports on men’s health are suggesting that perhaps we need to recognize that there is a cost to men’s relative invisibility.

Lower life expectancy in men is a widely known and accepted fact, but with most of these premature deaths occurring within the working age male population there is a significant knock on effect to the family, employment and the wider society. Higher treatment costs of the mostly avoidable heavy impact diseases that affect men are revealed in the data that shows how much more likely they are to end up as an in-patient than women.

What is surprising is the breadth of the health challenges that seem to affect men to a greater extent, at an early age, than seen in women. Cardiovascular disease, those cancers that are not sex specific, respiratory disease and digestive disorders amongst others all compete with men’s higher death rates from accidents and other external causes to raise their rates of premature death above those of women.

With the increasingly aged population we are also entering into a new era of male health problems that have not previously been seen. The health challenges of the very old are dominated by, but not limited to, the diseases of the prostate. With growing awareness of the significance of erectile dysfunction as an early marker of cardiovascular disease and the uncertainty of the significance of low testosterone warranting greater debate within the profession on how we manage the older man.

How men manage (or not) their mental and emotional health is also an area of growing concern – with higher rates of suicide in men seen as a global failure for both men and health professionals to recognize the warning signs and manage male distress effectively. Many a family have also suffered at the hands of a man who has failed to deal with a deteriorating mental and emotional state.

A feature of most countries is that in those sections of society where there is the greatest degree of socio-economic deprivation or social change it is the men that have the biggest drop in their life expectancy. Suggesting that when the going gets tough the women suffer, but the men are more likely to die.

This is not to say that men are a lost cause! There is growing evidence that men do care about their health, but that services have not been configured in a way that allows them to access them or they have been too associated with the care of women and children or the elderly. One example of this is finding ways of managing males who are overweight in a world where nearly all services, both commercial and within the health sector are geared towards a female audience. When the services become male focused men not only are willing to attend, but they lose weight and are more likely to sustain that loss. Many countries are now also finding that men will engage in health care that has a direct impact on the health of women, such as testing for Chlamydia, and HPV vaccination in boys.

Next year sees the completion of a major new report on men’s health and infertility (www.icud-mhi.org), this may act as a stimulus for all family doctors to rethink their practice in relation to men.


There are some good resources that can be a useful guide for practitioners wanting to know more about men’s health:

The International Society for Men’s Health

Foundation for Men’s Health

Journal of Men’s Health

Trends in Urology and Men’s Health  
(A very accessible journal aimed at the needs of the GP).

The next World Congress on Men’s Health is in New Delhi, India 9th-11th October

There are a number of national and international reports on men’s health that offer a detailed picture of the issues men face with their health including: