General practitioners and urologists are often assumed to be the main, sometimes the only, health professionals dealing with men and their health. However a recent initiative conducted in the US has shown that men would also benefit from popping down to their pharmacists more often.
American community pharmacists provided screening facilities and health counselling to encourage men with health risks to visit their doctor. Men were identified for the intervention using a Men's Health Risk Assessment Tool, which screens for major illnesses.
The nearly 400 patients screened had about three significant health risks each, and 69% had not had a physical examination by a physician for periods ranging from 1 year to more than 22 years.
Nearly 70% of patients who were recommended to visit a physician either did so or had scheduled an appointment within 12 weeks of the intervention. Telephone follow-up by pharmacists slightly increased the percentage of men who had examinations or made appointments for them but not significantly so.
A return on investment analysis indicated that pharmacies would require payment for such services, as the number of prescriptions generated by physical examinations was insufficient to cover the cost of providing the screening and patient interventions.
Analysis: Life expectancy for men lags behind that of women. Research consistently demonstrates that men engage in fewer health-promoting behaviours and are less likely to have regular physical examinations than are women.
The National Community Pharmacists Association established the Men's Health Initiative, which identified health risk assessment and interventions by pharmacists as offering a potential mechanism for helping men change their behaviours and obtain physical examinations.
This experience indicates that community pharmacists have a crucial role to play in the improvement of men’s health and that there is a considerable potential for the development of such activities in Europe.