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We need a gender-sensitive approach to Covid-19

10/03/20 . Blog

According to a press release that landed in my in-tray this morning, a third of people - more men than women - would lie to their GP about their symptoms.

That doesn't bode well for containing the corona virus generally and it certainly doesn't for men. Because the evidence is guys - sit down and take a deep breath - that while men and women are pretty much equally affected by Covid-19, men are nearly twice as likely to die.

These are the findings so far from China. They're even more remarkable if you take into account that 90% of health care workers in the area of China most affected are female and health care workers are, for obvious reasons, at higher risk.

Covid-19 is a respiratory virus. It affects the lungs and breathing. So the difference between the death rates of men and women may be down to far more Chinese men smoking. Or it may be the slightly weakened immune response that puts men at higher risk of respiratory viruses anyway. Or it may be that men take less notice of the symptoms (and soldier on to work) or don't tell the truth about them. We can't be sure at this stage.

What is does mean is that Covid-19 is further evidence, were it needed, that health is a gendered business and that it requires gender-sensitive responses.

An excellent article from Anne Karpf this week explained why this approach benefits everyone - men and womern alike. The more equal a society, the better men's health.

Writing in The Lancet last week, Clare Wenham, Julia Smith, Rosemary Morgan, of the Gender and COVID-19 Working Group 'call on governments and global health institutions to consider the sex and gender effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, both direct and indirect, and conduct an analysis of the gendered impacts of the multiple outbreaks, incorporating the voices of women on the front line'. That sounds like a very good idea, indeed.

Jim Pollard


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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