Saturday, February 04, 2012

Men's Talk

Whilst the Christmas festivities are still in our minds, I thought we would start January with one of those cracker-style questions. What do the Book of Psalms, Sir David Frost, the European Commission, Loyd Grossman, the Irish Republic, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh have in common?

The comedians amongst you will think of all sorts of answers. However, this particular quiz question has a serious message, especially if you are a man. (Ignore the female reader who just remarked that all men are jokes, and keep reading for the important bits).

As we have just had an important religious festivity (that might come as a surprise, but we’ll not go there today), I will start with the Book of Psalms from the Bible’s Old Testament. ‘But ye shall die like men’, reads verse 6 of Psalm 82. I doubt whether the writer of that particular psalm had the concept of 21st century public health in his mind. However, unknown to the author, it was a prescient statement with great modern-day significance.

But back to the quiz; have you got the answer yet? Perhaps Loyd Grossman can help. Grossman was the location presenter of the 1980’s TV game ‘Through the Keyhole’, hosted by Sir David Frost. One of his catch phrases, as viewers were about to be shown around a celebrity’s house, was ‘let’s go through the keyhole’. Ah, I can hear the penny dropping. Yes, you are quite right; the Duke of Edinburgh has recently undergone cardiac surgery; being the recipient of a minimally invasive technique, commonly called ‘key-hole surgery’. (Yes, I know the links are a bit corny, but I did liken this article to the standard found in Christmas crackers.)

So that leaves us with the European Commission, the Republic of Ireland and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pull into the conundrum. Since you have done so well by reading up to this point, I will quickly quell your mounting sense of suspense. Towards the end of 2011, The European Commission published a report called ‘The State of Men’s Health in Europe’. Apparently, of all the European countries, the Republic of Ireland is the only member which has a national men’s health policy; all the rest treat men the same as women and children. Unfortunately, a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t do men any favours, as working age men have significantly higher death rates than working age women (210% higher, in fact; not quite what the psalmist had in mind, but he was right, nonetheless).

Flawed life-styles are not the only reason for men’s greater mortality rates; although smoking, obesity, high-fat diets, excess alcohol and a lack of exercise are important causes of coronary heart disease. Road and workplace accidents are also significant issues. The fact that men do not make best use of health services and health-related programmes as much as women is also a contributory factor. (A good example is the fact that only 42% of patients participate in cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack, bypass surgery or angioplasty; although I am afraid that Prince Philip’s example of attending a shooting-party lunch does not count as cardiac rehabilitation).

Finally, why should the Chancellor of the Exchequer be concerned about all of the above? Well, it is estimated that by 2060, there will be 24 million fewer working age men across Europe. That is a lot of lost tax revenue. There will also be 32 million more men (mainly not working) over the age of 65 years; a fact that should exercise both the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Health. Perhaps we should be lobbying our MPs for a ‘men’s health policy’, rather than let the Government spend valuable resources on re-arranging the deckchairs on the Good Ship NHS. ‘Equality for Men!’ – now, there is a good slogan for 2012. As for me, I think I might pop over to the Irish Republic for a spot of masculine pampering.

(First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Thursday, 5th January 2012)

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