The first-ever professor of men's health anywhere in the world has been appointed in the UK.
Alan White, the chair of the Men's Health Forum board of trustees has been made Professor of Men's Health at Leeds Metropolitan University. His goal is a simple but challenging one: 'My aspiration is for men's health to be part of all health based courses. It is incomprehensible now we are beginning to fully realise the extent of the differences in the way that men and women experience both health and illness that practitioners can be left in ignorance of why this is the case.'
After graduating from the University of Surrey in 1982 with an honours degree in Nursing Studies, Alan worked as a nurse before moving into nurse education in 1988 at Leeds Metropolitan University, where he has led the Undergraduate and Masters course's in Nursing. He completed his masters at Leeds Met and, in 2000, his PhD in men's experiences of chest pain and emergency admission to hospital at Manchester University. He has many research interests and is currently working on a number of studies exploring men's decision making when using health services.
This is his first interview following his appointment. Below is a select list of Alan's publications.
What will be your new role?
This is yet to be fully determined at the University but in essence as this is a Personal Chair I will be able to create my own role.
The majority of my time will be devoted to research and to the education of health professionals on the subject of men's health.
Why do you believe this appointment is such good news for men?
This is a part of the picture of developments in the field of men's health. We have had the pioneering work of the MHF, the European Men's Health Forum and the International Society for Men's Health and gender, with individuals of such vision and passion as Dr Ian Banks and Professor Siegfried Meryn, the innovative practice initiatives of such individuals as Jane Deville-Almond and groups such as the Bradford Health of Men group and Meryl Johnson with the first Health Improvement programme on Men's Health. Internationally the importance of the American and Australian Men's Health Network's and the growing success of the Journal of Men's Health & Gender show that this appointment is another aspect of the legitimisation of Men's Health as a discipline in its own right.
The post paves the way for other universities to set up centres of research and scholarly activity in the area of men's health. It further defines the field as an area of academic credibility and in so doing will attract more funding for research on men and their health.
The result of this is that it will help men through the more informed care that can be provided by practitioners and by raising both men and women's understanding of the health risks men face and how men deal with both their health and illness.
This in turn will also be good for women as there is strong evidence that many women suffer as a consequence of men's poor health.
What do you hope to achieve in the post?
A key goal is the creation of a research unit dedicated to men's health here at Leeds Metropolitan University with the development of research at a local, national and international level.
I currently run a multidisciplinary post graduate men's health module here at the University. This needs to be developed into a full course on men's health.
There needs to be a recognition of men's health as an academic discipline in which more of the work being undertaken in different areas of medical and social sciences are tied together to give a deeper understanding of what impacts on the health of men. There are many scholars on masculinity but until recently there has been a lack of focus onto health and much of medical science has focused onto the disease process — both approaches leave unanswered why men seem to have a higher incidence of nearly all the cancers, and have a greater chance of premature death for nearly all the major disease processes. By generating a better understanding of how men experience their health and illness we may be better able to target men more effectively. An example is in the millions spent on thrombolytic drug therapy, which is only effective in the first 6 hours following an infarction. If we do not investigate why a significant number of men delay seeking help then the potential benefits of the thrombolytics are lost.
In this regard my fundamental aim is to explore how services can be configured to enable more men to seek medical aid sooner and how men can be better prepared to take a more proactive approach to managing their own health. More work is needed on understanding how men use health services. There is a rising number of practitioners registering for National Men's Health Week and the range of initiatives that are being used in an attempt to attract men to health check up's etc is widening - we need to do more evaluative work on the effectiveness of these new approaches. But we also need to explore how men use conventional services before we invest too much time and resources in creating new ones.
There is also a need to developing the research base for practice once men are within the health domain. Studies are needed on how men can be supported to best cope with acute and chronic illness and how rehabilitation can be fashioned to enable men manage their illnesses more effectively.
What are your key priorities in the next few years for men's health in general and the MHF is particular?
The Forum is well known and respected for its work in developing policy and enhancing practice, but now is the time for the development of an academic wing of the MHF. This needs to be multidisciplinary and enable a voice for those working in the field and an environment for debate and scholarly activity.
We need to continue to strengthen our ties with the Women's Health organisations to jointly push for gender to be part of all health policy. I hope that the key work started by the Gender and Health Partnership and the success of the first Gender and Health summit can be developed further. It was a powerful bringing together of all those with expertise in men and women's health to consider how gender should be integrated into health policy. It was also creating a dialogue between the men's and women's health organisations that can only be seen as beneficial.
Alan White: selected publications:
White, AK Cardiovascular disease (chapter). In Update in Men's Health for GPs. University of Bath Medical Multimedia Series.
Page created on August 23rd, 2004
Page updated on December 1st, 2009