Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who's afraid of Gregor Dallas?

A slightly off topic post today but it's on a topic which as an author of the sort of books that don't sell very well - ie ones about men's health - is close to my heart.

The Society of Authors, the trade union for British authors, is having the first election for its management committee that I can remember in the entire 15 years I've been a member. You'd imagine there'd be quite a state of excitement but today I got my copy of the Society's magazine and there was barely a word about it (nor is there anything on the Society's website). How am I supposed to make up my mind about the candidates?

I can see from the way the ballot paper is laid out that this is an election for four places between four candidates proposed by the board themselves and one other, Gregor Dallas, who was proposed by three other members.

I know Gregor Dallas and have even read one his books. He is an excellent historian, a passionate speaker and a nice man. Perhaps he is a terrible threat to the Management Committee, perhaps his ideas are, but I would like to have been able to make my own mind up.

The Society of Authors is the organisation of George Bernard Shaw, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and hundreds of thousands of others who were not threatened by new or different ideas but embraced them. Shame.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The future of health online

We’ve had a successful Men’s Health Week drawing men’s attentions to the benefits of using reliable internet sites to find health information. But changes in the way the internet works mean this may become harder to do in the future.

‘Liking’ something is fine for the latest gadget, music or amusing video but can you ‘like’ the latest war footage or, more pertinantly to us at the Men’s Health Forum, information about erection problems? In an Observer article on his new book the Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser says that what is good for consumers is not necessarilly good for citizens.

He’s also concerned about personalisation. Internet search engines are no longer neutral. Since the end of 2009 Google has been tailoring your results to what you looked at before without telling you. It’s like buying a newspaper a couple of times and then being force fed the same paper every day. This is a partial world picture at best. Essentially you give up a whole load of personal data to your favourite search engine and they filter out the stuff they don’t think you want to worry your pretty little head about while bombarding you with adverts for the things that they think you might want to buy. A Faustian pact for the internet age. What will its impact be on health online?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All 'appening for Men's Health Week

It's all coming in thick and fast now ahead of Men's Health Week which kicks off next Monday at White Hart Lane. This year's Week is all about encouraging men to get online and access quality health information. There's a free iPhone app and the Health Clicks mini-manual. All the Men's Health Week latest is on the MHF website and Twitter.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Listen to the docs

Another shocking neglect of blogging duty on my part! Put it down to Men's Health Week and related activities again (actually, there's a book in this year's Men's Health Week). But the call by Britain's doctors for David Cameron to axe Andrew Lansley's proposed health bill has prompted me back to the keyboard. There is currently what the government calls a 'pause' and everyone involved in health including the MHF have been encouraging the public to make it clear what they think of the bill.

As every patient knows, doctor doesn't always know best but you need to listen very carefully to what he or she says. The government should now do so. If you want to have your say, it's not too late - you've got until 31 May.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Random acts of social media kindness

My colleague at the MHF Aine sent me a tweet from someone - a men's health doctor no less - describing this blog as 'great stuff'.

Now I had a great Easter celebrating my dad's birthday but after the machine that is Manchester City effectively ended the champions league hopes of the attractive-looking, occasionally-brilliant, terminally self-destructive jalopy that is Spurs last night I was in severe need of a lift. This retweet was it. It was even enough to make me update the blog after a month's silence forced on me for a variety of reasons including poor health, Men's Health Week preparation, other writing commitments and bone idleness.

Now the cynical among you might well consider that this tweeter's real agenda is to publicise his own work rather than mine. And you might well be right - Dr Will Courteney has a book to promote. But whatever the reason, it still seems like a - cliché alert - win-win situation. He gets publicity. I feel better about malehealth's pathetic web presence and this blog even gets an update. (All it needs now is some readers!)

We know that random acts of kindness make both actor and recipient feel better. Perhaps this is the real health benefit of social media: it makes these random acts so much easier. So go on, retweet something or post a nice comment today.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The end of 'I'm on the train!!'

I love my computer but I must admit I'm not a big fan of the mobile phone. I have been heard to argue after a drink or two that they're infantilising devices for social control and I'm not entirely joking. But obviously I have one and my preference for texting rather than calling will be increased by a new review of the mobile phone safety research: Keep phone away from ear to reduce cancer risk.

In 2007 we ran a story on malehealth in which Professor Lawrie Challis, then head of the government's committee on mobile phone safety, suggested that mobile phones and electromagneticism in general could be the cigarettes of the 21st century. Since then smoking has been banned in public places. Is it possible that one day something similar will happen to mobile phones?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The pies have it: salt

Coming from south London, I'm a big fan of pie and mash. In places like Manze's and Goddard's, the pies are as crusty as the bloke behind the counter and the nearest thing to a vegetable is the motes of parsley in the liquor sauce.

I've no idea what's in the pies and I have always thought it best not to ask. Now, thanks to the Consensus on Salt and Health (CASH), we know a little of the answer: there's a lot of salt. Of course, they didn't test traditional pie and mash shops - they stuck to pubs and supermarkets - but I doubt the results would be much different. The bottom line is this: we should eat no more than 6g of salt a day (about a teaspoon) and even the best pie meal in the test contained nearly 4g. Fortunately CASH have provided tables showing the healthiest and unhealthiest options and tips for enjoying pies without piling on the salt. So I won't have to give up the pie and mash just yet.

I don't know, they'll be telling us that eels aren't good for you next.