Thursday, April 23, 2009

There are plenty of safe online health options

The Advertising Standards Authority's ruling that the Pfizer-backed ad raising awareness of the dangers of buying drugs online is not misleading or unduly distressing has put this issue back in the news. That's no bad thing.

I say this not because I'm interested in drug company profits but because I'm interested in men's health. By buying drugs online without a prescription you're not depriving drug companies. Global spending on prescription drugs was about $643 billion in 2006 so big pharma won't be passing the hat round anytime soon. What you are doing is depriving yourself of a diagnosis. By diagnosing yourself you might well miss something serious. Erection problems, for example, don't just happen - they are often the sign of potential killer diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Go and see your doctor and get a prescription before buying online.

The attractions of using the internet for health are obvious. That's why malehealth has had three million unique visitors in the last two years. And we know from our own survey that most men would consider buying drugs online in the right circumstances. So it's good to see some organisations rising to the challenge.

If you have a prescription there are umpteen online pharmacies to choose from. If you haven't, Dr Thom have been providing online treatment for erection problems for a while now. Today we report on a new online initiative that can enable the under 25s to test themselves for chlamydia, the most common sexually-transmitted infection at home in private. It's attracting web-savvy men in droves: a shrewd move because chlamydia is symptomless but dangerous - it can make men infertile as well as women.

Times are changing. Smart internet users don't have to turn to the pirates and risk buying dodgy pills, today there are plenty of safe online options and the number is growing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why is there no news in our newspapers?

The government is often criticised for announcing new funding or new initiatives more than once. They're accused of spinning and of trying to pretend they're doing more than they really are. But perhaps it's the media that are spinning? I've discovered another reason why the government sometimes announces something more than once: because nobody takes the slightest bit of notice the first time around.

So it is with the Department of Health's Third Sector Strategic Partner programme. The Department have teamed up with 11 strategic partners including the Men's Health Forum in a move that could radically change the way government works with the not-for-profit health sector.

The scheme was announced in February and covered by the MHF website. It was press released again this week. It's shocking really that nobody in the mainstream media is interested in running with the story. There are big issues here with pros and cons. Will it help government understand patient needs better by working more closely with their organisations? Or will third sector organisations be compromised?

Of course police brutality, MPs' dodgy expenses and the economy are big stories that need covering but it's not lack of space in our increasingly bloated newspapers. No, it seems that as our daily rags get fatter, the news coverage gets lazier. No wonder readers are turning to the internet.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Avoid a hazardous waist, have an NHS health-check

If you're aged between 40-74 (and in England) look out for your invitation for a free health check. The government reckons it can save over 500 lives a year and prevent over 1500 heart attacks and strokes through preventative check-ups. And the MHF agrees. If you're invited, I strongly urge you to go along. It won't be long or painful - a few questions, weight, height and a simple blood test. Let us know how you get on - especially if you don't find it helpful.

The downside - as usual - is that it will take time for everyone to be seen. Local Primary Care Trusts are designing their own plans and government admits the scheme won't be available everywhere in England until 2012/13

Why now? Well, perhaps the government has been reading Hazardous Waist, a book the MHF helped produce with Radcliffe Publishing back in 2007 but which suddenly, for some unknown reason, has started attracting the reviews it deserves. Edited by MHF chair Alan White and Maggie Pettifer, the book has been described as 'the perfect antidote to the laissez faire attitude that seems to pervade male health problems at the present time' (Dr Jeremy Sagar, Univadis).

While in Perspectives in Public Health, Dr Bashir Qureshi admits: 'the account in this book was so moving that I have decided to do something to shrink my own middle-age spread. I cannot think of any health professional or general reader who would not like to read and benefit from this slim book.'

Praise indeed - if you've not been invited for your free check-up yet, why not give it a read?