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Men’s health needs an MOT

Dr Alex Smallwood - Health Management

The pandemic has created an unprecedented public health crisis in the UK, with a significant increase in mental health problems, missed screening appointments, and the emergence of long Covid all taking a toll.

But while the health effects of both Covid and lockdown restrictions have been far-reaching, the pandemic has contributed to existing negative trends in men’s health – including less timely and lower levels of engagement with health services.

This year’s Men’s Health Week introduces the Men’s Health MOT, which highlights the lower volumes of prostate cancer diagnosed during the pandemic and encourages men to get a full, detailed picture of their overall health.

It’s the perfect opportunity for employers to start a conversation about men’s health in the workplace.

Dr Alex Smallwood, GP and Director of Clinical Transformation at Health Management, said:

“Men are more prone to heart and respiratory issues, which may have been worsened by unhealthy habits during the pandemic, such as reduced exercise or increased alcohol consumption. Traditionally, men have sought help later than women and may ignore warning symptoms longer than they would have done pre-Covid. Diseases affecting men including testicular cancer are curable if treated early, so it’s always worth checking.

For many, the increase in home working has led to a more sedentary lifestyle, and this may contribute to late detection of problems among male employees, as minor changes in the home don’t necessarily inconvenience in the same way. In the case of urinary symptoms – going more often could indicate a prostate problem, but at home, this change may not be sufficiently bothersome to seek help for. We also know that those who are less active, or who are larger, are at increased risk of many illnesses, including bowel cancer, which may only present with subtle changes that could be ignored.

As well as ensuring that problems are detected early, a health check is an important precaution to check you know your body before beginning a new exercise regime. This will reduce the risks of injury or strain, and minimise the risks that returning to exercise could highlight – such as heart disease in those with raised cholesterol. These checks are free to everyone over the age of 40 through NHS”.

Other steps that employers can take to support men’s health at work include:

  • Consider nominating a male ‘champion’ at work to encourage uptake of support
  • Encourage senior employees to talk about how they accessed health support
  • Encourage GP visits and health checks and offer flexibility regarding time out of work to attend these
  • Direct employees towards information and support on male health conditions, including prostate cancer and testicular cancer
  • Revise and update existing Equality and Diversity policies and consider developing a dedicated ‘Men’s Health’ policy

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