Men’s health absent from policy agendas

Men’s health is generally absent from policies and programmes at all levels, according to a new report from the Global Action on Men’s Health.

From the Margins to the Mainstream takes an in-depth look at the role of policy in men’s health. As well as identifying the current state of play with men’s health policy at the global, national and local levels, it explores the barriers to progress in men’s health policy, the opportunities for advocacy work to advance men’s health policy and suggests how policymakers could be more effectively engaged.

One of the barriers identified in the report is the lack of a common advocacy agenda among men’s health organisations. Women’s health organisations such as those focussed around breast cancer have been particularly successful.

On the positive side, men’s health is growing in visibility helped by publications like Men’s Health magazine, the Movember campaign and disease-specific awareness-raising campaigns, such as on prostate cancer, the authors say.

Although unfortunate in itself, COVID-19 could help to focus professional and public attention on men’s health because men are much more likely to die following infection by the virus than women.

Looking specifically at prostate cancer, the report notes that although there have been significant improvements in care and treatment, problems remain, including men’s lack of knowledge about the condition, gaps in medical practitioner training, delayed diagnoses, inequitable access to the most effective treatments, the low priority given to advanced prostate cancer, the need for more care support for patients and men living with the physical and psychological problems caused by prostate cancer, and the lack of definitive research on prevention.

Peter Baker, Director of Global Action on Men’s Health says: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a cruel light on the state of men’s health globally. Men’s particular vulnerability to the virus is directly linked to the historic neglect of men’s health, not least in policy at the global, national and local levels. It is clear that we now need concerted action to improve men’s health outcomes, not only for COVID-19 but also for all the other conditions that exact such a heavy toll on men’s lives. Our report sets out a roadmap for the achievement of significant and long-overdue policy change.’

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