2017/18 was a challenging year for the Men's Health Forum as we managed a declining income in a challenging funding environment while working to maintain our impact and continue innovating in our support for men
Key achievements over the year included:
- Ground-breaking new research reports on diabetes, the language men use to talk about mental health, and the role of dads in family health.
- Strongly increased coverage for men's health issues
- The launch of an innovative new programme - Men's Pie Club - to tackle social isolation - in partnership with a Newcastle-based social enterprise, Food Nation, supported by the Movember Foundation
- A successful Men's Health Week focused on men with a 'hazardous waist'
- Launching Secure Man, a new manual for men in the criminal justice system, and Ffit I Ffermio - a bilingual Welsh/English edition of Fit for Farming.
The wider context has been mixed:
- The biggest loss has been the disastrous decision by Leeds Beckett University to close the Centre for Men's Health. This has been a hugely important partner for the Men's Health Forum over the years and very influential in men's health issues globally. We feel its loss keenly.
- Potentially the biggest opportunity has been the decision by World Health Organisation (WHO) in Europe to develop a men's health strategy for the region: a programme we actively supported and the first time globally that the WHO has done this.
- The wider health environment is becoming more challenging with a slow-down in improvements in male life expectancy - and the emergence of greater health inequalities between men.
- The funding environment continues to be challenging as national and local government partners have reduced the amount of grant funding available to the voluntary sector.
Raising the importance of men's health
Last year, we highlighted our priority to step-change the importance of men's health - and this year we sought to deliver that, with a sharp increase in national news coverage - with repeated coverage in the Daily Mail and Sun as well as coverage in the Guardian and Telegraph and TV reporting by Channel 5 News.
Topics covered included:
- Men's Health Week - and the risks of a 'Hazardous Waist' for men's health
- Our diabetes report: One in Ten: The Male Diabetes Crisis
- Men's underuse of primary care - and the impact of that on their health
- Unjustified restriction of access to IVF by some CCGs
Aside from raising the profile of men's health as a general issue, we also sought to continue to influence detailed policy on the issue. During the year, we were pleased to become members of the new VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance run by the Department of Health & Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England - the successor to the previous Strategic Partnership Programme. This has enabled us to directly engage with policy makers on issues such as diabetes and men's use of primary care and digital services.
Leading provision of dedicated health information for men
Our website continued to perform strongly, with 1.4 million unique visitors over the course of the year. Our Man Manuals - produced in partnership with Haynes - also continued to perform - and provide us with a significant source of unrestricted income. Our newest Manual - Serious Drinking - was 'highly commended' at the BMA Patient Information Awards 2017. We owe a huge debt to our editor, Jim Pollard, for his development of our website and our manuals.
We continue to innovate in this area. At the beginning of the year, we launched Secure Man - a Man Manual for men in the criminal justice system - co-produced with men in a secure mental health unit in Birmingham. And towards the end of the year, we produced a bilingual Man Manual Ffit I Ffermio for Welsh farmers in partnership with the Farming Community Network.
More and more people are downloading and using our new Toolbox Talks. We also added to our range during the year with a new Toolbox Talk available free for Men's Health Week focused on men's waists.
Focus on men and boys from the most disadvantaged areas, groups and communities
The life expectancy gap between the richest and poorest men is far greater than the life expectancy gap between men and women - and greater than the life expectancy between the richest and poorest women. Men are overrepresented amongst some of the groups with the worst health - including people in the criminal justice system and rough sleepers. And we are evolving our strategy to reflect that: we expect to focus on 'Unequal Men' in Men's Health Week 2019.
This year, our biggest initiative in this area was the launch of a new Men's Pie Club pilot programme to tackle the needs of isolated men in the more deprived areas of Newcastle. We are working in partnership with Food Nation, a local social enterprise, and the project is funded by the Movember Foundation. Initial results are encouraging.
Strengthening our network
We continue to grow our network. On Twitter, we now have more than 10,000 followers, and more than 6,000 people are signed up to receive our email news. Our men's health group on HealthUnlocked now has more than 8,000 members.
One area where we have sought to understand our partners better is by analysing the profile of our voluntary sector followers and subscribers. The result of a survey of our VCSE partners showed that only a minority of our partners are men-only health-only charities. A far wider range of voluntary sector organisations is working on men's health - and we've sought to reflect this in our communication and engagement.
The newly created organisation Global Action on Men's Health - of which we are a founder member - is also providing an excellent forum to engage and share best practice with other men's health NGOs around the world on men's health issues - including the WHO strategy.
Addressing our funding challenges
This has been a challenging year for us, with a sharp reduction in permanent staffing and other costs to reflect our new funding challenges.
To give us more flexibility, we are continuing to work with our Associates - professionals with a deep knowledge of men's health issues - who work with us on a project basis as needed.
Other initiatives include:
- Partnership with GSi Fundraising - the organisation that took over the Glasgow Men's 10k formerly run by Men's Health Forum Scotland - which has increased our event revenue
- Adding the facility to take direct debit and repeat credit card payments. Initial results are also encouraging.
- Signing up to new fundraising initiatives such as Amazon Smile and Facebook Donate to supplement existing programmes such as the PayPal Giving Fund.
In the coming year, we will be:
- Launching new materials for employers - such as a 4th edition of our Man Manual, a replacement to our previously successful Challenges and Choices manual and a new 'straight to men' training offer for employers.
- Making more bids to grant-giving organisations and trusts focused on disadvantaged areas, groups and communities
- - to support work to tackle the particularly poor health outcomes amongst those men who are their beneficiaries
- Better leveraging our web traffic and email lists to drive digital fundraising - especially regular giving
- Looking to further cut cost, including options for cost-sharing, co-location or merger with other men's health charities.
Looking to the future
While we are the first to recognise the huge improvements in men's health over the years, there are still major challenges outstanding:
- On average, one in five UK men is still dying before the age of 65, and two in five before the age of 75 - with huge and growing inequalities between men in the richest and poorest areas of the country.
- Men are still more likely than women to die of circulatory disease, liver disease, cancer, diabetes and suicide.
- Three in four suicides are by men - suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 45.
When it comes to lifestyle, men are more likely than women to:
- smoke - with the gap between men and women now growing again
- drink alcohol at hazardous levels.
- eat an unhealthy diet.
Health services are still not effectively engaging with men - particularly men of working age. Men are less likely to:
- attend a general practitioner
- sign up for online NHS services
- attend an NHS Health Check
- seek help for mental health problems
- attend weight management programmes
- opt for bowel cancer screening
- visit a pharmacy
- take a Chlamydia test
- have a dental check-up
- and these gaps are often worse in the areas of greatest need.
There is plenty to do - and we look forward to working with our supporters and partners to help make it happen in 2018/19.