The European Men’s Health Forum is warning that unless a fundamental change is made in the whole approach taken to men’s health, the EU will suffer both socially and economically.
The Forum are responding to The State of Men’s Health In Europe Report, a summary of which was given a low-key launch in the European Parliament last week.
The Report shows that every year twice as many men of working age (16-64) die as women with some 630,000 male and 300,000 female deaths across the EU27 countries in this age group. The Forum are calling for this group of men to be explicitly targeted.
EMHF President, Dr Ian Banks explains: ‘We’ve seen great improvements in life expectancy because older people – if they make it to retirement age – are living longer. The great black hole is men of working age where we’ve seen very little improvement in the death rates in recent years. These men have been neglected for too long. We need a wide-ranging and fundamental change in policy. This is the group we need to be targeting.’
The Report proves that lifestyle changes can make a real difference if only men can be enabled to make them. But it also places a responsibility on policy-makers and politicians to consider the health implications of other policies such as on the economy, education, employment and housing.
Inequity not biological inevitability
Men are dying prematurely but the rates at which they do this vary enormously from country to country and even within countries according to region or social group. This is evidenced by the massive differences in male life-expectancy: just 66 years in Latvia compared to 80 in Iceland, for example – a 21% longer life.
The Report says that the data proves men’s health disadvantage is an issue of inequity and not biological inevitability.
Dr Banks says, ‘The challenge for all of us working in healthcare is to find male-friendly policies that can change this in terms of information-giving, facilitating healthier choices, screening and access to services. But it’s also about the bigger society, the wider socio-economic policies. Men can’t make healthy choices if the work they do - or don’t do - and the social and economic structures within which they live prevent them.’
The EU-commissioned The State of Men’s Health in Europe brings together the official epidemiological data from across Europe and across all major disease areas from cancer and heart disease to mental health. The Report’s lead author Professor Alan White of Leeds Metropolitan University in England said: ‘For the first time we have a clear picture of men’s health across the EU. Previously we had a series of partial pictures by country or disease area. This now brings it all together so that policy-makers at all levels across Europe can see exactly what they’re dealing with and learn from each other.
Let’s make no mistake, it can be done. To give one example, if every country had the accident rate of the Netherlands we’d save 100,000 lives a year.’
The Report makes a strong business case for keeping men alive. ‘This is not just about health,’ said Dr Banks. ‘Premature male death undermines the economy, undermines families, undermines women and their health and undermines our social security and health services.’
Eurostat population projections estimate that there will be a 24m reduction in working age men across the EU27 countries by 2060. If this is the likely scenario with so few men of working age in years to come – and we're to succeed economically - then we do need to make sure that these men are in decent health.
The EMHF and the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) launched the Report's summary at the Forum Against Cancer Europe (FACE) Workshop on Men’s Health on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 at the European Parliament in Brussels. The launch was chaired by EMHF Board Member and former MEP John Bowis and included the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs John Dalli, European Association of Urolology Secretary General Per Anders Abrahamsson, European Cancer Patient Coalition President Tom Hudson, Report Author, Professor Alan White and Dr. Angelo Paraiso of the Organisation of European Cancer Institute.
When the full Report is published later this year, the EMHF will also publish specific recommendations in the most-needed health areas.