Welcome to the first issue of Forum News. This newsletter aims to keep Forum members, and others with an interest in men's health, up-to-date with our activities and other key developments. Forum News will be published every six months. There are plans to develop the newsletter to reflect the Forum's increasing activities and the growing awareness of men's health issues.
This is an exciting and fast-moving time for The Men's Health Forum. The level of public, professional and political interest in men's health is unprecedented and the Forum is working hard to keep up with this as well as to develop its own initiatives.
For the latest news about the Forum and men's health, details of our publications and a comprehensive guide to links and resources, visit us at www.menshealthforum.org.uk. This initiative has been made possible through the generous assistance of Radcliffe Online and Merck Sharp and Dohme.
We have a new home! We have moved into accommodation leased from the BMA in its London headquarters building in Tavistock Square (near Euston Station).
Until February this year, the Forum was based at the Royal College of Nursing. This was because the then Co-ordinator was also employed part-time by the RCN. When he resigned from the Forum in February, we also lost our accommodation and had to move into a temporary office in Brighton until a suitable base in central London could be found.
The Forum would like to thank the RCN for so generously providing us with a home for so long and the BMA for re-housing us so quickly on very favourable terms. Further details of our move will follow.
Pfizer Ltd has just announced that it will continue to provide the Forum with much-needed and generous financial support for a two-year period from July 2000. The Forum will receive an educational grant of £40,000 a year, a sum which reflects Pfizer's commitment to the Forum and to promoting men's health in general. Both Pfizer and the Forum wish to make it clear that the grant is intended to support the Forum as a service to the medical and wider community and is not conditional upon or related to any commitment on the part of the Forum or its members to recommend or prescribe any of Pfizer's products.
This grant will enable us to continue to employ a part-time co-ordinator and to develop our work. However, we do need to create a full-time post as soon as possible to meet the demands currently being placed on the Forum as interest in men's health continues to grow exponentially. We are urgently considering how we can raise sufficient funds to do so.
As well as fund-raising, moving into new offices and developing a website, the Forum continues to work on a variety of important projects.
Our report on young men and suicide was launched in April by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health (click here for more) and our report on Inequalities on Health was launched on 16 May by the public health minister Yvette Cooper (click here for more) . We've also been working with the Doctor Patient Partnership to produce health promotion materials for men on tackling sexually transmitted infections (click here for more).
We will shortly be producing a range of materials promoting the Forum and beginning work on a Department of Health-funded project to establish a database of good practice in work with men in the health service (click here for more). We are also working with the Prostate Cancer Charity and others to develop an occupational health project on improving prostate health.
A delegation from the Forum met Yvette Cooper at the Department of Health in April and we were very heartened by her commitment to men's health issues. We hope to work with the Department on a number of new projects over the next 12 months.
The minister for public health has lost little time since her appointment in expressing her interest in men's health issues. Speaking at a conference on young men's health in Birmingham on 30 March, she said:
'This Government has made clear its determination to improve health across the board and to tackle health inequalities. And one of the starkest health inequalities when it comes to life expectancy is between men and women. The question for all of us who care about ill health among men is what we can do to make a difference.'
'I shall be asking the Health Development Agency [which took over from the Health Education Authority in April] to examine what measures are most effective for improving men's health in different areas and preventing men from becoming ill in the first place.'
A week might be a long time in politics but the past six months has seen more than a shift in Millennium for the Men's Health Forum. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Forum has a direct line to every newspaper in the UK, such is the recent coverage of our activities in highlighting men's health issues. Highly successful campaigns such as those with the Doctor Patient Partnership, Samaritans, Impotence Association and the Department of Health raised our profile in the areas of suicide, heart disease, erectile dysfunction and men's use of the primary healthcare team.
Major conferences featured members of the Forum which invariably led to intense media attention. After experiencing the political wilderness the Men's Health Forum is now attracting serious interest from leading politicians across the entire spectrum. Yvette Cooper, under secretary of state for public health, made an historic speech to a Birmingham conference on Young Men's Health paving the way for greater collaboration, while the Men's Health Forum's briefing document on suicide was launched in Parliament by the all party committee on mental health.
Our briefing document on health inequalities was launched by Yvette Cooper on 16 May, reflecting the impact the Forum is having in Government circles. Leading politicians such as Howard Stoate (Lab) and Evan Harris (Lib Dem) are also speaking in the House on our recommendations. Funding is also improving with substantial support from Pfizer, Merck Sharp and Dohme and Roche. We have also been invited to apply for project funding from the Department of Health. Sufficient funding will be vital to increase our secretariat to full time. Fortunately we have secured offices in Tavistock House, London, which will be our base for communications and meetings. Our website is already on stream with campaigns 'bolted on'. Close collaboration is being maintained with the fledgling forums of Scotland and Ireland while, most excitingly, we are poised to use the website as a European source of reference.
If the next six months are anything like the last, the Men's Health Forum will be needing a much larger calendar.
The lives of young men are being lost because of ineffective strategies to combat the rising number of cases of suicide, says the Men's Health Forum's new report on this increasingly worrying issue.
Young Men And Suicide, which was launched at the House of Commons on 18 April by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, examines the facts behind suicide and shows why existing policies to deal with it are failing.
The number of men taking their own lives is almost three times greater than the number of women. In the last 25 years the suicide rate for men aged 15-24 has doubled. Yet the report concludes that very few interventions to address the level of suicide have as yet succeeded in reducing the number of deaths in young men.
A survey of health authorities, conducted for the report by the Men's Health Forum, identifies that just a handful have strategies in place to deal specifically with suicide. The responses revealed that many organisations find it difficult to design and implement policies. Statements such as 'health services have no expertise in working with young men' and 'suicide is a relatively low priority' may help to explain why the level of suicide in young men continues to rise.
The report shows that an effective suicide strategy for young men must understand and address their specific interests, activities and emotions. Policy makers must take into account that men generally take more risks with their physical and mental health than women and are much less likely to ask for help when they experience difficulties. Most young men at risk of suicide are very unlikely to visit their GP.
Services should be made more appropriate and attractive to young men and staff should have a positive approach and understanding of young men rather than operate on the basis of negative stereotypes.
Dr Ian Banks, chair of the Men's Health Forum, said: 'The loss of a young life to suicide is tragic and needless. Young men are less likely to seek help from doctors or other health professionals when they are in need and are not good at taking health advice.'
'Current strategies to deal with suicide fail to acknowledge the problems and experiences of young men. This report provides the chance to start making a difference and we hope that policy makers will turn our recommendations into action.'
The report can be read in full online here.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are increasing in men. Trends indicate a particularly dramatic rise in the diagnosis of genital herpes and chlamydia. The Forum has been working with the Doctor Patient Partnership (DPP) to encourage men to seek help and to dispel some of the myths that surround STIs.
The results of a specially commissioned MORI survey revealed that only half of adult men know that a GUM clinic provides sexual health advice and treatment. Thirteen per cent thought a GUM clinic had something to do with oral health and six per cent thought it treated elderly people.
Men are often reluctant to seek help for STIs because they mistakenly believe testing will hurt, or that their partner or family will find out. The DPP/Forum campaign aims to reassure men that testing is not painful or complicated and that GUM clinics will not contact partners, friends, family or even the man's GP.
The campaign uses an innovative approach to raising awareness among men. Leaflets and advertisements resembling a condom have been featured at the Silverstone Grand Prix and will continue to target men at rugby's Heineken Cup, football matches, pubs, universities and at work. Online information about STIs and where to get help is also available through this website (click here for more).
For further information about the STI campaign, contact Kristin McCarthy at the DPP.
Page created on September 11th, 2003
Page updated on March 25th, 2013