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Men’s Health at the European Parliament, March 19

2013-03-19_14.07.41a

MEP Christel Schaldemose (DK), a leading MAC (MEPs Against Cancer) MEPs, organised a meeting at the European Parliament on 19 March, “Time to improve Men’s Health - the next step for the EU?”.  The following summary is provided by Mrs Schaldemose’s office.

Tonio Borg, the Commissioner of Health and Consumers, provided the keynote.  The Health Strategy of the EU takes into account the gender dimension and stresses the need to tackle health inequalities. The Commission has published two reports: in 2009 one on women’s health and in 2011 one on men’s health. Both reports show huge inequalities between the two genders.

The Commissioner highlighted findings of the Men’s Health Report:

  • Gap in life expectancy: women live in average five years longer than men
  • Pattern of particular diseases: cardiovascular diseases and cancer are the most important causes of death for both sexes
  • Differences in communicable diseases: for every one woman with AIDS, there are three men with AIDS
  • Men’s mental health problems are under-detected under-diagnosed and under-treated
  • Men have a higher rate of admission to hospital than women. Men only seek help when they are seriously ill.
  • Men smoke and drink more than women which put them at a higher risk of health problems.  According to the Commissioner, the report shows us that a lot of men's health problems can be prevented and addressed at EU level.

The Commissioner promised to ensure that men’s health will be a priority in the Health Programme. The Commission will continue to develop and implement policies which support men’s health by focusing on disease prevention, for example through initiatives on tobacco, alcohol abuse and physical activity. The Commission has also developed campaigns targeted at men, including a partnership on anti-smoking with a famous football team.  The Commissioner concluded that he is committed to take this policy forward and to address the inequalities that exist in the field of health.

Svend Aage Madsen is the co-author of the report: The state of Men’s Health in Europe

Mr. Svend Aage Madsen showed a striking data collection on men’s health in Europe. The facts were based on the state of divorced and single men’s health in Europe.

  • The death rate is higher for men in all age groups than for women.
  • Men have a higher risk of developing cancer because they are more exposed to many cancer risk factors. However, male cancer patterns are changing. Prostate cancer has become the most frequently diagnosed cancer.

  • There are differences in men’s health between and inside European countries
  • Men who live alone have poor lifestyles: they eat less healthy and do less exercise which put them at a higher risk of health problems. Divorced men’s life expectancy is much lower than for married men.

Svend Aage Madsen recommends action on the issue, for example recognition of men’s physical and mental health as a public concern in the EU and that each EU country develops a Men’s Health Policy.

Professor Ian Banks, is with the European Men’s Health Forum.

Ian Banks talked about men’s lives, sexual health and use of services. Men’s low usage of health services is a huge problem because they become an economic burden for the European societies. This is why the issue is a public health problem and not only a "man problem".  Ian Banks mentioned that benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a growing burden. 50 % of men aged between 51 and 60 have BPH and the number is expected to increase as the population continues to age. Ian Banks believed a political solution isnecessary, for instance vaccination and better information and services which are targeted men. Research shows that online pharmacy is a good way to reach male consumers. Recognition of the issue and a reorganization of the system are two important steps toward a healthier life for European men.

Hans-Jørgen Knudsen is with Livslinien, Suicide Prevention, Denmark and provided Facts among suicidal men in Europe

  • Numbers from 2007 show that across the EU 41,924 men and 12,822 women committed suicide. I.e. 3 out of 4 suicides are committed by men.

  • Suicide accounts for 1.75 % of total male deaths.
  • Suicide is the principal cause of death in men aged between 30 and 39 years.
  • The last decade has shown a 15 % increase in the number of suicides.
  • 8 EU Member States are among the 15 countries with the highest reported male suicide rates in the world (Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Finland, Belgium, Poland, France and Austria).

  • Hanging is the most common male suicide method. For women it is overdose.
  • Some of men’s dominant motives are loss of work, loss of spouse, loneliness, depression, physical sickness or fear of it.

Hans-Jørgen Knudsen recommended that political decision-makers urge to take on the challenge of tackling the gender and socio-economic inequalities in suicide risks. Launch new norm setting initiatives and campaigns to strengthen men in building strong social relationships, which they can draw from when different health challenges appear. He suggested solutions which integrate active labour policies and supportive welfare system in mitigating the risk of suicide.

Dr. Noel Richardson

Author of the Men’s Health Strategy in Ireland: The Irish experience in handling men's health

Dr. Noel Richardson presented the development on Irish policy on men’s health and implementation of Ireland's Strategy on Men's Health. He mentioned different facts that created an agenda for policy development around men’s health, for example research and local policy initiatives. The policy development started in 2001 with the National Health Strategy and in 2009 the National Men’s Policy and Action Plan was launched.

Ian Banks mentioned some key lessons from the policy process and involvement of civil:

  • The importance of consultation and involvement of civil society in policy development
  • The need for transparency in managing expectations
  • The value of having a men’s health policy document which identifies a priority area and creates a vision for men’s health
  
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