There is a crisis in men’s health.
A glance at the statistics creates a disturbing picture: one in five men dies before the age of 65; two thirds of men are overweight or obese; and almost four in five suicides are men.
Currently, only 18% of local authorities are adequately recording information by gender and are thus aware of specific health issues in men and women. Areas with very poor male life expectancy are not prioritising men’s health and therefore authorities do not recognise the importance of men’s mental and physical health in their area. This data comes from an analysis conducted by the Men’s Health Forum of 147 joint strategic needs assessments (JSNAs) in 2014.
For example, only 29,197 men were recorded as receiving weight-loss help from their local authorities last year, which is a shocking figure because 21 million men are overweight or obese. This indicates that something is going wrong in the way that councils design and deliver services for men. Local authorities, public health services and clinical commissioning groups need to take action on the most important men’s health issues in their areas.
Men Behaving Badly, the report published this week by the Centre for Public Scrutiny and Men’s Health Forum is a welcome first step in trying to uncover what is going on and help steer local authorities to think more deeply on men’s health. I appreciate severe budget cuts are significantly affecting local authority budgets, but scrutinising the issue of men’s health is a start to improve the system and raise awareness about men’s health and well-being; and, when men comprise three-quarters of premature deaths from coronary heart disease and middle-aged men are twice as likely as women to get diabetes, will inevitably save money in the long-term.
Councils can take a leading role in addressing these issues and motivating action. For instance, as a first step, the council can work to get at least 50% male participation in NHS health checks by ensuring that the programmes meet men’s needs and lifestyles. That seems an obvious starting point.
I will continue to work with my fellow parliamentarians to raise the issue of men’s health and support every effort to address the disparity in health outcomes. I now urge the 82% of councils currently in the dark around men and women’s health to also take up this baton, use the tools provided by organisations like the CfPS and Men’s Health Forum and ask how we can help men to become healthier.
Lord Patel, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Men’s Health