The Government must introduce a National Men’s Health Strategy to ‘level up’ men’s health and tackle health inequalities in the UK that lead to one man in five dying before the age of 65, experts have said.
In their new report: “Levelling Up: The Case for a Men’s Health Strategy“, the Men and Boys Coalition joins leading practitioners, academics and charities, in stating that gender-informed policies are critical to addressing health issues disproportionately affecting men including 75% of deaths from suicide, 76% of premature deaths from heart disease, and around two-thirds of alcohol-related deaths.
Behind the headline national figures, men’s health that is deeply unequal across the country and dramatically affected by levels of deprivation. A national Men’s Health Strategy is vital to level up. Campaigners say we need look no further than male life-expectancy (MLE).
- MLE in the Bloomfield ward of Blackpool in north-west England is 68.2 years;
- MLE in the Warfield ward of Bracknell Forest in south-east England is 90.3 years.
That is a 22-year difference. A clear case for levelling-up.
Dan Bell, CEO of the Men and Boys Coalition, said:
“A National Men’s Health Strategy will enable the many challenges around prevention, care and outcomes in both the physical and mental health of men and boys to be addressed in a comprehensive and systematic way. Men’s health policies and strategies already work effectively in a number of countries including Ireland and Australia – let’s learn from their example.”
Martin Tod, CEO of the Men’s Health Forum, said:
“The Government’s recent commitment to a Women’s Health Strategy is a breakthrough in recognising the need for gender-sensitive health care. Many of the conditions they highlight which affect both men and women are those where a gender-blind approach is worse for women and worse for men.”
First drop in men’s life expectancy in 40 years
COVID has brought all of this into sharp relief – men are 65% of those hospitalised from COVID and 61% more likely to die from COVID. The inequalities between men seen in other areas have been reflected in COVID, with, for example, Black African men 3.7 times more likely to die from COVID as white men during the first wave of the pandemic, and nearly five times as likely to die from COVID as white women.
In September, the Office for National Statistics reported the first decline in male life expectancy since the 1980s, while women’s life expectancy has remained broadly the same.
Despite these stark and troubling statistics, health services are not meeting men’s needs. Men are 32% less likely than women to visit the doctor – particularly during working age. Despite being the majority of suicides, men are only 34% of those referred to psychological therapies. And even though men are 76% of premature deaths from heart disease and the majority of those with Type 2 diabetes, they are a minority of those undertaking NHS Health Checks.
Gender-aware policies a win-win for men and women
All of these issues call for gender-informed health policies, the campaigners say. They are calling on the Government to follow up its recently launched and urgently needed Women’s Health Strategy, by developing a parallel policy framework men.
Martin Tod, CEO, Men’s Health Forum, cited heart disease as an example of an issue that would benefit from a fully gender-informed approach:
“As an example, the Women’s Health Strategy has noted that women in the UK have more than double the rate of death in the 30 days following a heart attack than men – and rightly calls for action to address this.
“At the same time, lack of a gender-sensitive approach means that men’s care is also not as good as it should be. 15% of men have untreated high blood pressure vs. 10% of women – at least in part through less effective engagement from primary care and the NHS Health Checks programme.
“The same applies in a wide range of other areas: whether it’s mental health, weight management, diabetes or cancer, men and women both benefit from a gender informed approach.”
Dan Bell, CEO, Men and Boys Coalition, said the expert framework needed to develop a gender-informed approach is already in place:
“Our network of more than 100 leading men’s health practitioners and experts have a wellspring of knowledge about how to support the health and wellbeing men and boys – they know that gender-aware approaches work. A National Men’s Health Strategy would allow local authorities and health services across the country to benefit from this expertise.”
To ensure any strategy is robustly founded, the campaign is calling on the Government to start by establishing a ministerial men’s health taskforce – in the same way as it did for women’s health – to work at pace to:
- Bring together policy makers and the statutory and voluntary sector
- Produce a report on the state of men’s health in consultation with health professionals, organisations who work with men and the wider public
- Develop an action plan for the introduction of a Men’s Health Strategy
Full details of the campaign and how to support the development of a Men’s Health Strategy are available here:
NOTES TO EDITORS
For interviews and further information, please contact Martin Tod on firstname.lastname@example.org / Phone: 07887 986048
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Issues Affecting Men and Boys has been hearing evidence from a range of health experts on the case for the UK Government to create a Men’s Health Strategy for England.
The APPG has been holding three sessions between October and December 2021, ahead of publishing its report and recommendations in early 2022.
During the hearings, Nick Fletcher MP (Don Valley), Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Issues Affecting Men and Boys, noted deep concern “about the many inter-linking disadvantages and challenges men face with respect to their physical and mental health” and that “despite the fact that these issues are well known and recognised by the health establishment and Government, yet there is no coordinated or concerted action to look at these from an overarching perspective”.