With the election now upon us, Men's Health Forum magazine asked the three main political parties what they would do to improve the health of men.
Conservatives believe in free healthcare for all, based on need, not the ability to pay. All NHS care for both men and women will remain free. While recognising differences, no one will be given preferential treatment on account of their sex.
: It is unacceptable that health is still linked to social circumstances, childhood poverty, where you live, your race and your gender. Our objective is to improve health for all. By 2010 we aim to increase life expectancy at birth in England from 76 today to 78.6 years for men and from 80 today to 82.5 years for women.
Our determination to tackle cancer and heart disease — our biggest killers — will have the greatest impact on men's health. Obesity is one of the major issues covered by our public health white paper and obese men are one of the key groups it will target.
Action to tackle the root causes of ill-health — in housing, education, employment and the environment — will impact positively on men's health.
There will be improved access to community-based care with more NHS walk-in centres and new commuter-focused services sited closer to workplaces, to improve contact between men and the health service.
We also want to protect people from harm from other people's choices. Because second-hand smoke kills, we will ban smoking in all enclosed public places.
Our policies will tackle other causes of ill health, such as poverty, pollution and poor housing. By tackling the root causes of the problem, not just treating the symptoms, we would work to improve the health of the nation.
We would want to see more freedom for local health commissioners to develop innovative programmes, such as outreach visits to pubs, to encourage men to seek appropriate treatment.
We would introduce targeted health MoTs, based on age and risk factors, which would call individuals for screening tests when appropriate.
: We would tackle the increased incidence of cancer in men with equal fairness to women. We would scrap government targets, which can often distort clinical priorities, and do more to raise awareness of certain cancers — in particular prostate cancer.
: We published our NHS Cancer Plan in September 2000. Deaths have fallen by more than 12% in just six years. A third of men diagnosed now with cancer will live for at least five years and lung cancer deaths in men are falling more quickly in this country than anywhere else in the world.
GPs are now able to counsel men on the advantages and disadvantages of the PSA test for prostate cancer and their various treatment options should high PSA levels be detected. And funding for prostate cancer through the NHS Prostate Cancer Programme has been increased 20-fold since 1999.
By 2008 smoking, a major cause of cancers, will be banned in all enclosed public places and workplaces, with the exception of licensed premises. All restaurants and pubs and bars preparing and serving food will ban smoking.
: There needs to be much greater awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer and other cancers. We support campaigns for greater public information on these issues. We would also want to tackle the root causes of disease through supporting people to make healthier choices.
: Yes. We will also undertake a major public awareness campaign, not just among high-risk groups, but on a whole population basis, which will promote among young people the idea that they should take control of their lives, including their sex lives.
: Yes. Our chlamydia screening programme, which we introduced in 2002 and which we have now pledged to extend to the whole of England by March 2007, will include both men and women.
: We will ensure that the chlamydia screening programme is rolled out as quickly as possible and, based on the evidence, extend it to men. We would ensure, as part of a sexual health programme, that both young men and women are aware of the risks of chlamydia
: Obesity has risen for men and women. We would spearhead a hard-hitting but positive campaign on the need for a balanced diet. It should incorporate the need for physical exercise and a long-term approach to healthy living.
: Obesity disproportionately affects the least well off, but men fair slightly better than women. The prevalence of obesity in England has trebled since the 1980s. We have no option but to tackle the problem.
By early 2006 we will develop a labelling system for the nutritional content of packaged food. By 2007 the advertising of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt to children will be restricted. By 2010 all children will be offered at least four hours of sport a week. By 2020 we aim to have 70% of the nation doing 30 minutes' moderate physical activity five times a week.
: We would introduce a range of measures to tackle poor diet and lack of exercise. We would introduce a clear traffic light system of food labelling. There should be more responsible marketing of food to children and we would establish a Healthy Eating Fund, supported by voluntary contributions from the food industry.
: We acknowledge that more needs to be done to prevent suicide, especially for men. We have pledged more psychiatric care beds and a campaign to encourage young people to avoid binge drinking and drug misuse, both of which have been linked to mental health.
: We aim to cut the rate of suicide for young men by at least 20% by 2010. Lack of access to relevant information and support can cause difficulties in a person's life. We are piloting a new resource, FIT magazine, for younger men aged 16 to 30, which, among other health matters, will address the causes of depression.
: The government's suicide reduction strategy appears to be delivering results. We would therefore continue with this programme. We want to promote earlier community-based, non-compulsory treatment, to safeguard the rights and welfare of people with mental health problems, and to tackle the stigma that is built up which stops people getting help.
Page created on April 1st, 2005
Page updated on January 14th, 2010