The pandemic has highlighted the poor state of men’s mental and physical health. What can pharmacy teams do to help?
Men's health has generally been regarded as poorer than women's health. Life expectancy at birth in the UK between 2017 and 2019 was 79.4 years for males and 83.1 years for females, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified these health inequalities and it is widely acknowledged that men have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of people dying from Covid-19 under the age of 85 are men, according to research from the Men's Health Forum. The over 85s is the only age group in which most Covid-19 deaths are female – also highlighting the disparities in life expectancy.
And that's not all. According to the Men's Health Forum, one in five men die before the age of 65, some 75 per cent of premature deaths from heart disease are in males, 67 per cent of men are overweight or obese and middle-aged men are twice as likely to have diabetes than women. Men are also more likely to smoke, eat too much salt and red meat, eat too little fruit and vegetables, drink to dangerous levels and are twice as likely to have liver disease.
And on that note, there's lots of work to be done to support men's health and there's so much opportunity for pharmacy teams to raise awareness this Men's Health Week.
For the boys
Every year, right before Father's Day in the UK, Men's Health Week takes pride of place on the calendar.
This year, the week will run from the 14-21 June 2021 and the Men's Health Forum is asking, how do we move forward in a Covid-19 world?
This builds on the theme from the 2020 campaign of 'Take Action on Covid-19'. This looked at how men were twice as likely to die from the infection than women and the impact of the action taken to tackle the pandemic, such as the multiple lockdowns which have been found to have contributed to poorer mental health. "Even before the pandemic, men's mental health was a cause for concern," says the Forum. "There is a grave disparity in the high number of men who die from suicide and the low number of men who seek treatment for depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges."
With the added pressures of the pandemic now at play, it's important to find ways of moving forward and supporting men's mental and physical health. There are many ways for pharmacy teams to encourage customers to get involved.
Three is the magic number
The Men's Health Forum has launched three new initiatives to raise awareness of Men's Health Week and support men's health now and in the future:
1. Let's All Talk – better mental health in a Covid world
To encourage people to get talking about men’s mental health – opening up as society opens up – the Forum has launched 'Let’s All Talk'. Everyone has felt the impact of the last year, but the Forum wants to not only highlight the disparities in men's mental health prior to the pandemic but says now is more important than ever to get talking about it. There are free resources available that pharmacy teams can download and put up in the pharmacy to help raise awareness and get conversations started.
2. The CAN DO Challenge
The CAN DO challenge aims to boost men's mental health. It is based on five ways to improve wellbeing: connect, (be) active, notice, discover and offer. The challenge is to choose a different way to wellbeing each day of the week. The Men's Health Forum has laid out an example below that pharmacy teams can pass onto customers:
- #connectmonday – call an old friend you haven't since before lockdown
- #activetuesday – go for a run, walk, or swim
- #noticewednesday – turn off your phone for an hour
- #discoverthursday – read a book
- #offerfriday – volunteer for a local community group.
Customers can get involved online using the hashtags above, plus #menshealthweek.
3. No going back: petition for a Men's Health Strategy
The UK Government committed to a Women's Health Strategy in March 2021 to coincide with International Women’s Day and while the Men's Health Forum welcomes this "long-overdue" news, it is calling for a Men's Health Strategy to be developed too and has organised a petition to persue this. "A strategy not just for England, but also in the other countries of the UK, will enable the many challenges around prevention, care and outcomes in both the physical and mental health of men and boys to be addressed in a comprehensive and systematic way," says the Forum. "Men's health policies and strategies already work effectively in a number of countries including Ireland and Australia."
Also this month
There are plenty of other health campaigns to get involved in this month, including the following:
Heathy Eating Week: 14-18 June
The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) wants to take the whole of the UK on its ‘Find your healthier you’ journey this Healthy Eating Week. The organisation wants to encourage everyone to reflect on their lifestyles and make improvements to their health and wellbeing. For 2021, pharmacy teams can share the BNF’s five key messages: know the facts, make a healthier choice, plan for success, be the chef and keep moving. More details on the themes are available on the BNF website and there is a plethora of resources to download for free to raise awareness in the pharmacy, including posters. The BNF is also planning a live webinar and an assembly for primary schools to start the week off.
Cervical Screening Awareness Week: 14-20 June
For a staggering one in two people, the first time they hear about the human papillomavirus (HPV) is in their cervical screening results letter, according to the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. This Cervical Screening Awareness Week, the charity wants to help spread the word and share the correct facts about cervical screening and cervical cancer, to help reduce the high levels of fear, confusion and worry that surround the condition. For 2021, pharmacy teams can help to reduce confusion about HPV, de-mystify cervical screening results and emphasise the importance of cervical screening to customers. There is plenty of information and support available, including about any concerns about screening appointments and Covid-19, via Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
World Blood Donor Day: 14 June
Every year World Blood Donor Day brings people across the world together to raise awareness and encourage blood donations, whilst thanking donors who have already donated. Blood donations save millions of lives every year, supporting the health and recovery of people with illnesses, injuries and who have had to have operations. World Blood Donor Day aims to emphasise the importance of regular donations and offers guidance, including on how to give blood. This is a great opportunity for pharmacy teams to spread awareness about the importance of blood donation and they can direct customers to the NHS Give Blood website to find advice and support for new donors, where to sign up and blood donation locations.