Men unaware of preventative services

New social marketing research in Haringey looks at why men don't use preventative health services.

New research in the London Borough of Haringey has identified four key factors in male engagement with preventative health services.

The Men's Social Marketing Segmentation and Insight Project involved interviews and focus groups with both local residents and health professionals. It identified three groups or 'segments' of males: those who were willing to use GP-led preventative services; those who needed more flexible services to engage; and those who needed proactive supportive outreach to become engaged. Examples of flexibility included being open longer hours and at weekends and availability at community centres and other non-GP facilities. 

The project found that across all the segments, there was a lack of knowledge as to what preventative services were actually provided by primary care, or to which GPs could refer patients on to. There was also confusion around the term ‘preventative’ - what it actually meant and who the services were designed for. 

The second factor was around ‘fear’ and possibly ‘denial’. ‘Fear’ was not solely related to the outcomes - what tests might find - but also the process. These fears were heightened if individuals were attending GP services as GPs were seen as ‘generalists’ who would just refer to a hospital specialist. 

Thirdly, men preferred to have physical examinations and tests (such as blood tests), as opposed to simply ‘talking’ about their problems to the health professional. 

Fourthly, ethnicity does not appear to be a factor. Although familial patterns, behaviours and cultural norms were seen to be important within families, no evidence was found that some ethnic groups are more or less likely to access preventative services. 

The researchers from the NSMC, formerly the National Social Marketing Centre, identified the pushes and pulls in accessing preventative health servcies (see diagram) and made the following recommendations:

  • Conduct basic service improvements to existing clinics, including training for receptionists and health professionals to ensure they have the correct and up-to-date information to give to patients; consistency in offering rapid results; open evenings and weekends; choice of locations (for example, pharmacists and local community centres; physical tests being part of any check; and booking follow-up appointments). 
  • Address knowledge gaps to ensure that the basic service improvements are made. These include: mapping existing services against the segments; establishing how GP surgeries currently refer people; review past referral systems to understand how they worked; and review the effectiveness (including cost-effectiveness) of the different modules of preventative service delivery. 
  • Use the segmentation approach to ensure that local services meet the needs of each of the segments. 
  • Improve stakeholder engagement - the NSMC have found that social marketing projects which have not engaged fully with the stakeholders have been unsuccessful. 

Haringey has a strong reputation for tackling health inequalities including those around gender and is a partner in the Men's Health Forum's Haringey Man MOT project.

The Men’s Health Forum need your support

It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.

In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.

It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.

We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.

Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.

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