Healthy progress for men

It is a truth universally acknowledged that men are more likely than women to pay less attention to their health.

While the "man flu" may be commonly joked about, the serious fact is men are more likely to ignore worrying health symptoms and less likely to seek prompt medical attention for them. This can exacerbate any condition, often increase the cost, time and resources required to treat the patient, and — in the worst cases —  mean effective treatment is too late.

The general reluctance of men to come forward and talk about their health problems  — both mental and physical —  is hugely concerning, therefore.

Men may be stymied in part by the traditional macho male image and societal expectations that they tough things out. Yet that is not helpful for them or their friends or families.

Some progress is being made at bringing the issue into the spotlight.  An example is "Movember", whereby in the month of November  men are encouraged to grow moustaches or beards to highlight men’s health. It is the most visible way in which the global Movember Foundation charity is trying to address the biggest health issues facing men, notably prostate and testicular cancers, as well as mental health and suicide prevention.

Former All Black John Kirwan has done much, through his work with the Mental Health Foundation, to bring the issue of depression out of the shadows — and provide important avenues for support.

Comedian  Mike King has been similarly outspoken in the area.

In Dunedin, another initiative has just been launched by the University of Otago.  It is a national men’s health centre, designed to "produce change", through collaboration, research, new thinking and lobbying for national policy.

Its director, Prof David Baxter, hopes the centre will be a "gamechanger".

He believes men can be helped to change their attitudes through more effective approaches that use their recreational and employment networks.

The initiative is welcome, and it is to be hoped it can gain momentum.

Bullying unacceptable

On another health note, the findings of a national public health system survey are concerning.

The survey shows more than a third of  senior doctors and dentists have been bullied in their workplace and two-thirds had witnessed their colleagues being bullied.

Nearly 41% of senior doctors’ union members responded to the survey, and described forms of bullying including violence, threats, intimidation, allegations, gossip and excessive monitoring of work.

The report said the prevalence of bullying appeared high by international standards.

The Southern District Health Board had the third-highest bullying rate.

The figures are worrying. Many workplaces will, unfortunately, not be immune to the problem. Yet in a healthcare environment — in which clinicians are working hard to provide the best care for their patients in what many claim are increasingly pressured circumstances — it beggars belief.

It is unhelpful to be encouraging the public to pay attention to their physical and mental health when health practitioners themselves are being subjected to abuse that could be compromising their own health and wellbeing.

Healthcare professionals — and the population — deserve better. 

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