In 2014/15, the Men’s Health Forum dramatically improved its reach and impact – helping more men improve their health – both directly through our website, manuals and Man MOT chat service – and indirectly through innovative new models of influencing policy and practice, and through persuading local health providers and commissioners to change how their services are delivered.
At the same time, we continued to improve our challenging financial position and to strengthen governance and risk management – although improving in these areas will remain a top priority for the organisation.
Throughout, we have continued to drive our impact through effective partnership – with other charities, with local and national government, the NHS and medical professionals, with universities and researchers, and with our donors, funders, sponsors and customers.
The biggest event of our year was the launch of our first ever Men’s Health Manifesto at the All-Party Parliamentary Group in Westminster on 5 November 2014. This highlighted detailed calls for action in seven areas:
- More measurement and reporting against inequalities
- Investing in research
- Continued focus on prevention – no let-up on the big killers
- Not waiting for men to engage – especially on mental health
- Removing the barriers to using health care, mental health and preventative care – especially for men of working age
- Reaching out proactively
- Making the most of it when men do come to you
- Designing targeted programmes around the needs and attitudes of the highest risk men & boys
- Tailored health awareness and literacy, especially amongst boys
- Organisational focus across the whole health system.
The manifesto was extremely well-received and now provides a robust framework for all our external engagement.
We also continue to be a member of the Health and Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partnership programme – jointly organised by Public Health England, NHS England and the Department of Health. Within this programme, we undertook several policy-related initiatives including:
We published a report on male carers, Husband, Partner, Dad, Son, Carer? in partnership with the Carers Trust. The UK’s three million male carers have been ignored for too long. They make a vital contribution, but face real extra health and work challenges that aren’t always properly addressed. Employers need to recognise that men can be carers too – and health and social care services need to do more to address the physical and mental health needs of male carers - especially the hidden carers who may not be known to the system. Both employers and health services need to do more to provide the tailored support that male carers need.
Men’s health, work and worklessness
Following extensive work on the theme in 2013/14, we launched our report – jointly developed with the Work Foundation – Sick of Being Unemployed – the health issues of out of work men and how support services are failing to address them during Men Health Week 2014 with the then Minister of State for Care and Support, Norman Lamb MP.
The Gender Data Deficit in Local Health
This report – based on a thorough analysis of all local English Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) was published in March 2015 and sent to all Directors of Public Health, Chairs of Health and Wellbeing Boards and Chairs of Scrutiny Panels. The report shows that just 18% of JSNAs adequately used data broken down by gender. Key health indicators such as lifestyle and disease prevalence and mortality are infrequently recorded by gender. The report compared how different local authorities cover the health needs of men and women in their JSNAs – and provided helpful insight into how this can be improved.
A new initiative for 2014-15 has been our increased use of Freedom of Information Requests to analyse how local health organisations are addressing men’s health challenges. This included sending requests to all local authorities to understand the gender split of NHS Health Checks. Shockingly, we discovered that 41% of local authorities didn’t even know the gender split of health check uptake in their areas.
Other work included the first gendered analysis of NHS Choices omnibus and visitor survey, highlighting important differences in topics searched for and patterns of usage. The analysis gives an important insight into ways men and women use the internet for health information and who they are looking up information for. It suggests that men are as interested in their health as much as women and that the extra ‘look up’ by women is related to their caring roles. This work will continue to inform our development of online services for men.
Within the Strategic Partnership, we have taken the lead in coordinating the representation of the partnership into the National Information Board – which brings together all parts of the health system to create an integrated informatics strategic and action plan.
2014-15 saw new innovations in how we work to improve practice with an excellent Movember-funded symposium on men’s mental health together with Leeds Beckett University – and the launch of our first ever ‘How to’ guide jointly with Public Health England: How to make weight-loss services work for men. Our intention is that this is the first of several guides to good practice – and in 2015/16 we expect to launch a similar guide to mental health based on the Movember programme and a guide to self-management support for men.
Encouragingly, despite its recent launch, North Somerset Public Health team has already commissioned a new weight management service for men based on the recommendations in the guide.
In addition to our research and publications, we also introduced new a Men’s Health Training course for commissioners and providers. Working with Graham Rushbrook, public health and training consultant, we developed and piloted new training on working effectively to improve men’s health. The course takes an interactive approach to help participants understand the health needs of men and boys, facilitate challenge to existing beliefs, service delivery and men's use of health services and action planning for individuals to put their knowledge and understanding into practice. Following pilots in Kent, Blackpool and our Southwark offices, the service has already been commissioned by Middlesbrough.
The four main ways that we reach men directly are through our website, through our Man MOT online chat service, through Men’s Health Week and through our publications. All of these saw major progress in 2014-15.
- In mid-April 2015, we launched our new mobile-friendly Men’s Health Forum website – combining our two websites – Men’s Health Forum and Male Health - and the effect on the number of people we’ve been able to help with men’s health information has been dramatic: the number of visits has nearly trebled. In 2014/15, more than 700,000 people visited our site for men’s health information – compared to 65,000 on the Men’s Health Forum website in 2013/14 and 180,000 on our Male Health website. We owe a huge debt of thanks to Lean Mean Fighting Machine who were our agency partners on this – they are truly exceptional partners.
- As part of our website relaunch, we included our Man MOT email/chat with a GP service – initially in Haringey and then nationally – funded by the Department of Health’s Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development fund. Usage grew from month to month across the year, and by the end of the first year, Man MOT and a trial ‘Beat Stress’ service had helped 718 men via email and 568 via chat.
- Despite very limited resourcing, Men’s Health Week continued to make a strong impact. We met our targets for professional and public audiences with more than 500 local partners signed up for newsletters and materials (equivalent to Men’s Health Week 2012 and 2013) and strong media coverage (radio, online, newspapers) including a full page in Metro (3.2 million readers), an article in The Times, an interview on the BBC News Channel and extensive regional print, online and broadcast coverage
- During the course of 2014/15, we kept the number of our man manuals distributed to men stable at around 50,000 copies, while growing our income from selling manuals by 50% through re-aligning our pricing. Towards the end of the year, we also launched three redesigned new manuals – Beat Stress, Feel Better, Eat. Drink. Don’t Diet and a new edition of our Man Manual – which we expect to have their full impact in 2015/16. These have been completely redesigned to a much more attractive full colour design and have been receiving an excellent response. We also benefited from sponsorship and are grateful to Danone for supporting the development of Eat. Drink. Don’t Diet.
Becoming a more robust organisation
2014-15 was a year of organisational change as Rachel Mustafa, Damian Shannon and Caroline Dyer left the organisation, David Wilkins retired but continued as a Men’s Health Forum Associate, and we were joined by Clare Greenhalgh as Business and Services Support Officer and Tracy Herd as Head of Programmes. Previously Tracy had done tremendous work on men’s health as the Healthier Communities Programmes Manager at the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
Amongst Trustees, Lily Abedipour stood down at the end of 2014, and Shaun Davis, Group Director of Safety, Health, Wellbeing & Sustainability at Royal Mail joined us in her place.
The associate model is a new initiative for the Men’s Health Forum and we’ve been delighted to work with our former chief executive, Peter Baker, as one of our new associates.
2014-15 was also a year of improving our systems as we conducted a thorough review of our risk register and put in place action plans to address our highest risks.
The Challenge Remaining
Despite all our work and our strengthening impact, men’s health in England and Wales still remains a major challenge:
- On average, more than one in five men is still dying between the ages 16 and 65, and more than two in five before the age of 75 – with death rates amongst men in the poorest areas of the country being even worse.
- Men are still more likely to die of circulatory disease and cancer.
- Middle-aged men are twice as likely to have diabetes as women – and twice as likely not to know they have diabetes.
- Three in four suicides are by men – suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 and there has been a sharp increase in the rate among men aged 35-64.
- When it comes to lifestyle, men are more likely than women to:
- smoke, smoke more cigarettes per day and smoke hand-rolled tobacco
- eat too much salt
- eat too much red and processed meat
- eat too little fruit and too few vegetables
- drink alcohol and drink at hazardous levels.
- Health services are still not effectively engaging with men. Men remain less likely to:
- attend a general practitioner
- attend a NHS Health Check
- opt for bowel cancer screening
- visit a pharmacy
- take a Chlamydia test
- have a dental check-up.
So there is plenty to do. The MHF ends 2014/15 well-placed to continue doing what is needed to meet men’s needs and drive policy and practice – to make a real difference in 2015/16 and beyond.