2016/17 was a year in which the Men's Health Forum had male mental health in particular focus online and off.
Key achievements over the year included:
- Continued rapid growth in our online and digital provision of health information to men - with step-changed web traffic and a new range of digital 'Toolbox Talks and videos' for use in the workplace
- Strong year-round focus on stress and mental health - through Men's Health Week and our BUPA UK Foundation-funded 'Beat Stress' online service
- Continued engagement with the health system through the Department of Health Strategic Partnership - working with the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England on critically important issues such as diabetes, access to primary care and mental health - alongside meetings with other key stakeholders such as the Chief Medical Officer and the Equality & Human Rights Commission.
- Awards for three of our Man Manuals and the launch of a new manual - Serious Drinking - in partnership with Drinkaware - alongside a wide range of more targeted manuals produced in partnership with local authorities, other charities and major employers
- Important new insight into the relationship between men, mental health and work.
Reaching more men online
In 2016/17, more than 1.6 million people visited our website - up by more than 43% compared to the year before. Unsurprisingly, most of our visitors are male - with the peak age being 25-34. The top content - and biggest driver of traffic - is health information.
During the year, we extended our range of digital information by developing and launching a range of 11 'Toolbox Talks' handouts and talk outlines designed to be used in the workplace to allow managers and supervisors to lead discussions on important health issues - as well as eight new 'Toolbox Talks Videos'. While most were designed for use and distribution by occupational health departments, we also designed one 'NHS Screening for Older Men' for use by Men's Sheds. We also made the stress talk available free as part of Men's Health Week - during which it was downloaded more than 1,100 times.
Focus on stress and mental health
Thanks to an extremely generous £106,260 grant by the BUPA UK Foundation we were able to focus across the whole of 2016/17 on stress and mental health issues.
Their funding enabled us to pilot a free, confidential, anonymous online chat for middle-aged men to support their mental health and wellbeing. Available via computer, tablet or mobile, it was designed to remove the barriers present with traditional services, providing more cost-effective earlier intervention, appropriate signposting and 'permission' to use those services.
The pilot produced some significant wins, principally:
- Higher reach and visits to the service than originally planned - particularly in areas of higher deprivation
- More than half of analysed 'chats' showing improved sentiment change
- Useful learning for the future, specifically on the topics of data collection and the implementation of well-being surveys
- Translation of learning to the wider field of men's mental health through a new report on the language men use in talking about their mental health.
We launched the pilot during Men's Health Week 2016 - which was focused on 'beating stress' and where the new service provided a powerful focus for our activities during the week. It also enabled us to achieve strong reach and impact during the week:
- More than 40,000 people visited our website.
- Nearly 800 people from over 500 different organisations signed up to the campaign.
- As mentioned above, our mental health 'Toolbox Talk' was downloaded 1,199 times.
- Posters tackling men's mental health were downloaded 6,339 times.
- On social media, the week engaged c.10.8 million people..
Engaging with the health system
In 2016/17, we were actively engaged in the last year of the Department of Health Strategic Partnership programme. Work areas included:
- Men and the language of mental health - identifying the language men use and respond to in engaging with mental health services. We reflected the lessons learned from this research in Men's Health Week 2016 and in our ongoing training programme
- Improving diabetes care for men - recruiting a reference group of researchers and of men with experience of diabetes - and engaging with NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK to pull together an evidence review of the issues of men and diabetes
- Improving engagement by men with primary care services - researching those services that need to be accessible outside working hours - supporting the development of NHS England's primary care toolkit - as well as leading a discussion on how NHS Health Checks can better engage men at the NHS Health Check 2017 Annual Conference.
- Men and the family's health - understanding the current role of men in their family's health and well-being
A critically important meeting during the year was the one we held with the Chief Medical Officer - Professor Dame Sally Davies - where we had useful conversations around the best way to strengthen the men's health agenda across government - as well as more detailed conversations on issues of gender and cancer, men and diabetes, and the relationship between alcohol and suicide. We continue to push for a future CMO Annual Report to be themed around men's health - and for the adoption of national men's health policies across Great Britain.
We were delighted to see three of our health manuals - produced in partnership with Haynes - shortlisted and recognised at the 2016 BMA Patient Information Awards:
- The Man Manual was 'highly commended'. Our creative director, Jim Pollard, rewrote and redesigned the manual from scratch - and we were pleased to see his work recognised.
- Your Body, Your Health was also 'highly commended'. Written by and for trans men, trans masculine and non-binary people, the manual explains the various aspects of transition healthcare in an easy-to-read, non-technical way to help people make decisions about their own well-being in a society which can still tend to think in terms of two fixed genders.
- 'Man to Man' was also 'commended'. Jointly developed with GMFA, the gay men's health charity, this was designed to bring together their and our expertise in a no-nonsense, practical manual.
During the year, we worked with Drinkaware to fill an important gap in the information we offer to men - namely a dedicated manual about alcohol: Serious Drinking. Written and designed by Jim Pollard, we launched this in January 2017 - and it is already receiving a strong positive response.
We also continued to work with a range of partners on more targeted manuals. These included:
- Gamekeeping for life - a health manual for over men working as gamekeepers - via the Gamekeepers Welfare Trust
- 'Railway Worker' - a specialist health manual produced in partnership with Network Rail - and other railway companies
- A version of 'Fit for Farming' targeted on farmers in the Grampian region of Scotland
We also produced tailored versions of our Man Manual and Beat Stress Manuals for a range of major construction, engineering and haulage companies. Altogether our manuals reached over 47,000 men during the year.
Looking to the future
- Strategy 1: Step-changing the importance of men's health
The primary change we need to make is to our 'model of change'. In recent years, we have had a strong focus on the main bodies that define detailed policy in England - the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England. While remaining important, this is no longer sufficient. It has become increasingly clear that without men's health being seen as a priority issue by politicians and the public, there will not be sufficient priority or funding to get the change we need - no matter how effective we are at 'behind the scenes' engagement. It is a critical priority to get men's health up the public and political agenda and we are revising our work plan to reflect this.
- Strategy 2: Step-changing our network
We can't step-change the importance of men's health on our own - and so the second shift we are making in our work is to put greater emphasis on building a strong network of individuals and other organisations to support the change we want to see. We will win with a strong network and coalition for change. We won't win on our own.
- Strategy 3: Extending our effective scope of our work from men to men and boys
Historically also, we have had an almost exclusive focus on men - and again, this is no longer adequate. More and more evidence is making clear that many of the most serious problems of men's health - such as, for example, mental health and obesity - start in childhood and adolescence. And the social determinants which have such a strong impact on men's health have often done devastating damage to people's life chances and long-term health before men leave childhood.
- Strategy 4: Continue to lead provision of specialist health information for men
Our revised strategy does not mean we will turn our back on all our current activities. Our website and our award-winning Man Manuals remain highly popular and highly rated - and the latter provide a valuable source of unrestricted income for use in other areas. Providing health information that works for men remains a critical priority for us - and we will continue to innovate and extend our provision in this area.
- Strategy 5: Refresh our funding plan
Our greater ambition requires significant resourcing. Historically, the Men's Health Forum benefited from generous Department of Health funding and significant funding from the pharmaceutical industry. Both have declined significantly over the years and neither is any longer a source of revenue that we can rely on.
There is plenty to do - and we look forward to working with our supporters and partners to help make it happen.