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Take five: the MHF's healthy choices

The MHF has recommended a five-point plan to government to improve the health of men.

The suggestions for the Forum's response to Choosing Health?, the government's consultation process for the forthcoming public health White Paper. MHF Director Peter Baker tolds the Department of Health that he saw the White Papare as 'as a significant opportunity for establishing a new strategic context for improving the health of boys and men and tackling gender-based health inequalities'.

The MHF response to the consultation recommends action across five main areas:

1. Build Healthy Public Policy

The Forum argues that men and boys have much to gain from a concerted — 'joined-up' — effort to improve male health involving changes, for example, to education policy, employment policy, the criminal justice system, family law and so on, as well as the more obvious initiatives that could be taken within the health sector. In the health context specifically, it calls for 'gender mainstreaming' positioning men's and women's health at the centre of health improvement work. 'This would make a potentially huge contribution to improving the health of both sexes,' said Baker.

2. Create Supportive Environments

The Forum's response says: 'It is particularly important for men — whose reluctance to engage with conventional health services has been consistently demonstrated — that we establish structures for health improvement at the places where they spend much of their time, including workplaces, social settings, sports venues and even pubs and barbers' shops.'

3. Strengthen Community Actions

The Forum believes we cannot hope to improve the health of men without consulting men and learning from them. It believes strongly that 'ordinary' men do care about their health and that it is a vital component in bringing about improvements that we work to engage them in the process of change.

4. Develop Personal Skills

Developing the capacity of individual men to improve, maintain and monitor their health is vital says the MHF. Learning of this kind is a lifelong process, and the skills required are different in different circumstances and at different life stages. From pre-school onwards, we should be delivering information and advice in a way that is consistent with men's and boys' view of themselves and of the world in which they live.

This is not just a matter of traditional 'education' - it is also about, for example, ensuring that individual men have the social skills necessary to utilise services effectively, the self-confidence to request and accept help, and the ability to cope with changes in physical and mental functioning.

5. Re-orient Health Services

The Forum calls for a future in which priority equal to that presently given to treatment services is given to the enhancement of good health and the prevention of illness. Since men are badly affected by all the major causes of preventable illness and death, a change towards an approach which favours pre-emptive action would not only be visionary, it would be of enormous benefit to men, especially those men whose health is the very poorest.

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Page created on July 6th, 2004

Page updated on December 1st, 2009