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16 June 2021

Men’s Health Week 2021 – Shining a Spotlight on Men’s Health

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Posted by: Katy Mcminn

This week marks Men’s Health Week, running from today, 14th June up to Father’s Day on Sunday 20th June 2021. It’s a week to shine the spotlight on men’s health.

The main aims of Men’s Health Week are:

  • Build awareness of health problems affecting men which could be prevented
  • Support both men and boys to make healthier lifestyle choices
  • Encourage early detection and treatment of male health difficulties

Whilst it may sound like a generalisation, the fact is that men on the whole do not look after their health as much as women, especially when it comes to their mental health which is leading to a gender health gap. There are some disturbing statistics out there that really illustrate the issue. Men have shorter life expectancy with 1 in 5 men in the UK dying before the age of 65. They are also more likely to die from heart disease, be overweight or obese and are twice as likely to die from COVID compared to women. An ONS report highlighted that 3 out of 4 suicides were by men in 2016. Writing for the British Psychological Society in 2018, Dr Funke Baffourde described male suicide as the ‘Silent Epidemic’ in 2018, reporting it as the highest cause of death in men under 45, with the highest rate being between the age of 40-44.

Despite this, men still seem reluctant to visit their doctor and seek advice about their health. A study in 2012 by the National Pharmacy Association reported that UK men typically only visit their doctor X4 a year compared to women who will see their doctor X6 a year. The inevitable result is that many conditions are not identified until it’s too late, cancer being a prime example where early prevention can save lives.

So why are men reluctant to visit their doctor? A shocking 90% of men said they simply didn’t want to bother them unless it was a serious problem.  This is accompanied by being too busy, not wanting to hear bad news, or feeling embarrassed about opening up to someone any personal issues they may be experiencing or not wanting to have a physical exam.

Why should this be important to businesses?

Because having healthy employees and introducing wellbeing initiatives makes business sense. The CIPD agree with this, stating that wellbeing initiatives lead to higher resilience, more engaged employees, lower levels of sickness absence,  as well as higher levels of performance and productivity. Failing to look after the health of your employees means you are restricting the talent that is available to you.

Whilst the health of all employees is obviously important, health initiatives in the workplace, both when working in the workplace or working from home, can be of particular importance for men. We know that men are less likely to visit their doctor. They still spend more time in the workplace, usually taking less advantage of flexible working options and are still almost twice as likely to work full time so workplace initiatives can be really effective at engaging with men and due to these circumstances, they are often very much valued and welcomed.  For example, GP helplines often provide a sense of anonymity and are often virtual meaning many men find it less embarrassing to talk about personal heath concerns when it is not face to face. They can also be fitted more easily into the traditional workday rather than having to take time off work to attend.

Whilst many of us are continuing to work from home due to COVID 19, workplace initiatives are still very much applicable and, in some cases, even more accessible when working remotely rather than only being available when working onsite.

What can businesses do to support and promote Men’s Health Week?

The theme of Men’s Health Week in 2021 is Mental Health in a COVID world.

Men’s Health Forum has come up with the CAN DO Challenge and it’s a great way to get involved with Men’s Health Week 2021, whilst supporting the mental health of all of your employees.

You can participate in the Challenge by asking your employees to choose a different way to focus on their wellbeing each day of the week, whether they are working in the workplace or from home.

The five ways are:

  • Connect – connect with other people (e.g., pick up the phone to someone you haven’t spoken to for a while) #connectmonday
  • (Be) Active – get moving (e.g., go for a run or a walk) #activetuesday
  • Notice – be present and in the moment, be aware of what’s around you (e.g., you’re your phone off!) #noticewednesday
  • Discover – learn something new or take up a new activity (e.g., take up a new hobby) #discoverthursday
  • Offer (or give) – do something for someone else (e.g., volunteer for a local charity or your child’s sports team) #offerfriday

It’s not all about Men’s Health Week though, its important to think about how you can support the health of your male employees throughout the year.

Here are some tips:

  • Use your internal comms to bring resources and information to your employees easily – both when people are working in the workplace or remotely using online channels
  • Try and make sure the language is gender neutral so all employees can relate to it – and review any existing resources to address any language that is either overly feminine or masculine
  • Seek ideas from your employees to see what they would like to learn about through anonymous surveys or idea boxes
  • Think about introducing some activity based activities or challenges to bring people together to exercise together or virtually eg bike races, running and walking team challenges.
  • Provide company sponsorship to charity sporting activities to encourage employees to participate in
  • Provide monthly awareness topics around health and wellbeing. These can range from healthy eating with recipe ideas and fresh fruit in the workplace, to provision of mediation exercises and support or other wellbeing initiatives.
  • Look at and review current wellbeing initiatives in terms of uptake and participation.

Supporting Men’s Health Week this year is easy with the CAN DO challenge but it also makes business sense to be supporting health in the workplace all year round, recognising different approaches are needed to specifically support and promote men’s health.

For more advice on how you can promote health and wellbeing in your workplace, source an experienced and professional independent HR Consultant through the HRi directory, a compilation of our accredited, platinum HRi members.

Author: Katy Mcminn, co-founder and director of HRi