Time for a health MOT? Kick-start men’s health in the New Year
January is a great time to get male staff to engage with their health and address issues they may have ignored until now. Of course, 2021 was a difficult year, especially from a mental health perspective. But it’s all too easy to take a ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach to health.
Says Helen Lake , Director and clinical lead of men’s health services at Peppy: “Too many men will just hope for the best, unlike women who are more used to having health checks throughout their life and will tend to take any tests offered.
“Men just don’t have the same health literacy and aren’t used to thinking in terms of prevention, so unfortunately they do badly in all areas of health, especially heart and mental health issues. Now is a good time to remind them that they can take control and head things off at the pass”.
Take an MOT approach
While men may not be as comfortable with having tests as women, they may well be accustomed to putting their car or bike through its paces on a regular basis. “You look after your car and have it MOT’d and spend money on it to fix any issues to ensure it’s working perfectly – so why not do the same for yourself?”
Getting male staff to engage with health checks and programmes may well work better if you use the language of an MOT. “Messaging that reminds them that they get everything checked rather than hoping for the best before taking their car out on the road will help normalise the idea of health checks”. Says Helen. And use statistics to drive home the message that prevention really is an option.
Use gender-specific language
Men tend to be far more reluctant to access health support than women. Men visit the GP 50% less than women. “Some health campaigns don’t speak to men,” says Helen. “The content and wording should be tailor-made for men, so they can own it and relate to it”.
“Using humour and direct language. ‘Don’t die of embarrassment’ or ‘Live better and live longer’ tends to work well with male colleagues. Male-specific attention-grabbing campaigns like Movember really work,” says Helen.
Peppy’s chat function also enables direct engagement with its users, and the confidentiality aspect makes it extra-appealing. “It’s confidential and convenient ‘health in your pocket’. Not your boss, but an expert who can answer your questions and concerns without embarrassment” says Helen.
Raise awareness of tests available
Your company benefits may include health insurance, but if not make your male staff aware that they’re entitled to a whole range of tests for free on the NHS if they’re over 40. Everyone between the ages of 40 and 74 who has not already been diagnosed with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease or high blood pressure may have a free NHS health check once every 5 years.
“Incredibly these tests don’t tend to be advertised, but even if you’re feeling well, you should go and get them done – and we know that typically men don’t,” says Helen. “If offered as part of your benefits package, make your male staff aware these tests are available”.
At the NHS health check your blood pressure is checked, your height and weight measured to give you your BMI, and your lifestyle is discussed – drinking, smoking – as well as your family health history to get an idea of your individual risks. “They check your cholesterol, your blood count in terms of anaemia, kidney health and diabetes and might also do a urine test. Signs of dementia, risk of heart disease and likelihood of diabetes are also monitored,” says Helen.
“And they may recommend a prostate test, especially you’re of black origin”. Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men. In the UK, about 1 in 4 black men will get prostate cancer.
Use surveys and confidential chat
While most employees are working from home, get them to engage with their health and lifestyle issues by using surveys and questionnaires. It’s a great opportunity to find out if staff are having sleep issues or experiencing mental health problems. Make sure you use terms like ‘burn-out’ and ‘stress’ rather than ‘depression’ which men can’t relate to.
Says Peppy’s Healthy Minds Lead Practitioner Linda Gillham “And be aware of the words they’re using to understand what’s going on underneath. A parent bragging about how hard they’re working and how tired they are from all their hard work may hint that they’re actually saying ‘I’m depressed’ or and ‘I’m anxious’.
“Many don’t know what the symptoms of depression are. They think burnout is just being tired. A lot of men are living with the symptoms of burnout without actually realising that’s what they’ve got”.
The confidential chat function of Peppy’s health programme makes tackling these mental health issues infinitely more doable. “The disinhibition effect of being able to send a chat message makes these conversations so much easier than sitting face-to-face with somebody and saying, ‘Actually, I don’t feel great’”. The chat function also enables men to talk about personal stuff without embarrassment.
“Problems with erections can be a sign of something more serious. My belief is they’re a barometer of your general health. Men will often dismiss this as an inevitable part of getting older. Actually, it could be a sign of cardiovascular disease or diabetes,” says Helen.
Kickstart a challenge
While male staff may not engage with overtly health-related initiatives, they may feel more inclined to get involved with a fitness campaign or challenge. Starting a staff football team or a running challenge like training for a marathon or Couch To 5k could get better results, especially if there’s a personal aspect to boost motivation.
“Men will often sign up to do a charity run or bike race or mountain-climb, so making sure they’re fit beforehand can become a driving force for a new fitness programme. Build a dialogue around that. Encourage them to choose a charity close to their hearts so they have that extra motivation”.
Create your own campaign like Movember, the annual event involving the growing of moustaches during November. It helps raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s suicide. Capitalise on the success of male-specific programmes, using direct and humorous language.
Men’s health can and should become more of a priority in the same way that women’s health has taken centre stage in recent months. There’s no better time than the New Year to start male staff on a health and fitness kick. Use the relatable language of an MOT and the confidentiality of virtual support with Peppy.
- Men tend to be far more reluctant to access health support than women. Take inspiration from successful campaigns like Movember.
- Use humour and male-specific language to drive engagement.
- Kickstarting a challenge makes adhering to a healthy lifestyle more motivating.