Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The cost of missed appointments

An NHS survey shows that men are more likely to miss appointments than women - blokes failed to attend 3.9 million outpatient appointments at hospitals last year. This is clearly not good - it costs the NHS money and means other people have to wait longer.

But the the total number of appointments cancelled by the hospitals - 4.9 million - is higher than the number of male no-shows. Yes, we should take more responsibility. Yes, we should be asking why are people not turning up for appointments. But we should also be asking why are hospitals cancelling more than 1 appointment in every 20?

We should also be asking what it costs. I asked both the NHS Information Centre who provided the missed appointment statistics and the Department of Health how much DNAs cost and neither of them knew. The Department suggested I contact Primary Care Trusts or Strategic Health Authorities. Both these bodies will be abolished under the government's latest plans so who will collect this data then? Individual GPs and hospitals? The new NHS Commissioning Board? We really are wading through treacle here yet the question, how much does a missed appointment cost?, is a very simple one. Worrying.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What do you know about the prostate?

If the answer's 'not much' then you're not alone. Here's a brilliantly simple idea from the European Men's Health Forum. Your Prostate is a website where you can ask questions about your prostate - peeing, sexual problems, disturbed sleep, supplements, cancer, anything at all. You can even ask what a prostate does. You'll get fast, free, confidential replies from specialist nurses and doctors.

By asking your question, you'll also be helping with a research project - and this is the bit that's so simple you wonder why nobody thought of it before - to find out what European men want to know about a subject we know we find it difficult to talk about. Yes, instead of doctors assuming they know what we want to know, this time they're asking us first. The results will be used by the EMHF to design some health education materials. To be effective though this project needs as many questions as possible so please, ask yours.

Questions and answers in English, Spanish and German so tell your friends across the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Getting it off your chest

I'm not a big fan of cosmetic plastic surgery. It clearly has a role in modern medicine - for transexuals or people in accidents, for example - but you don't have to look at the lamentable state of health care around the world for very long to despair of the waste of resources involved in all this vanity butchery. Despite the recession Americans still managed to spend $10 billion on boob jobs, tummy tucks and the rest last year.

However, it is equally clear that appearance is increasingly important in the world. People lose their jobs because they don't look right and all but the very strongest can entirely resist the advertising industry's drive to ensure that we're all disappointed with our bodies. More and more men are turning to plastic surgery with the most popular operation being the breast reduction. If you're considering this you need to reflect on it very seriously indeed and that's why we've posted all the FAQs on malehealth: Don't be a tit when it comes to breast reduction.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Good Sex writer suggests a Christmas gift

'If you want a male health book to recommend to your readers for Christmas … this slim, jolly and readable text is probably the best male health handbook on the market.' Thanks to Dr David Delvin for reviewing my User's Guide To The Male Body is such glowing terms.

Winner at this year's Medical Journalists' Association Book Award, David is a specialist in Family Planning and Sexual Medicine and author of 32 books on family health and sexology including the Good Sex Guide and Backache. (I imagine you can buy the two as a pair on Amazon.) So he knows what he's talking about on many subjects of particular importance to men. Indeed, the top story on Google when you search for 'Dr David Devlin' is Facts about penis size. And there's not many men who can say that!

(If on the slim chance you are interested in this topic there is a Penis Size FAQs article on malehealth.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Blackberry back? Working is STILL making us ill

I heard today that a friend, another journalist, had RSI - repetitive strain injury. I've had some problems with this myself. They severely affected my ability to work so I know how nasty - and painful - RSI can be. I found the page I wrote on malehealth on FAQs about work and health as I thought it might useful for him and was surprised to discover that although I put it together in 2003, it was still almost entirely relevant. Nothing has improved. In fact the way we now use new technologies at work is only likely to increase the risks of RSI or create new ones - stand by for iPhone finger, Blackberry back or Facebook faceache!

Some of the articles the FAQ links to are even older - last century in some cases. Amazing how contemporary they still are. No wonder in 2008, for Men's Health Week, malehealth ran an article showing that work was the main cause of ill health in developed world. With unemployment - a known killer - at its highest level in the EU in more than a decade and the UK coalition's cuts yet to kick in that's probably truer than it ever was.

Hey, what about Twitter twitter? (That's enough new forms of RSI! -Ed)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How healthy is Facebook?

I didn’t know until I saw The Social Network that Facebook began as an exclusive service for Harvard students before being rolled out to other top US colleges and eventually the rest of us. It suddenly made a lot more sense.

I'm on Facebook. But watching the movie, I began to wonder why anyone would want to sign up to the virtual version of a particularly brutal American rite of passage built around the public playing out of popularity. The social network is one of dysfunctional rich kids, dysfunctional geeks, dysfunctional scantily-clad women all dysfunctionally desperate for acceptance by the coolest frat club. Facebook, of course, becomes the coolest of the lot.

Today there are 500 million of us playing out this ritual, day in day out. Driving up and down on the same old strip like the kids in American Graffitti, permanent adolescents, a night that never ends. No wonder all the characters in the film end up suing each other.

The Social Network is written by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin who created the West Wing. Like the characters he writes about he’s very smart and part of the secret of his success is the way he uses detail, very precise detail, to make us believe that this is real. I felt I was at Harvard just as I felt I was in the White House.

The result can be stories that are interesting and exciting on a theoretical or intellectual level but less so on an emotional one. No problem in a series when there’s plenty of time for us to engage with the characters - no problem at all in The West Wing where we're prepared to wait for what, a hundred episodes?, for Josh to finally kiss Donna - but a potential Achilles heel in a film where the audience needs to find someone to sympathise with fairly early on if we’re to be pulled in.

Sorkin seems to deliberately avoid using the obvious candidate for this role – Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin who put up the initial capital – to this effect. Perhaps Aaron’s even cleverer than I realise. The medium is the message and this film is pretty much absent of real emotion – it’s all the anaesthetised synthetic emotion of the courtroom. A mediated second-hand sort of emotion. Sounds a bit like Facebook really.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Are you a sucker or A Sugar?

Are you a trained salesperson or marketer or indeed pretty much anyone with so-called people skills? If so you've probably heard all about mimicking - you know, when you sit the same way as someone else or copy their language to try to create a bond. It's not always about selling, of course - counsellors might do it too.

So what? It's part of every day life now. Well, a 2009 research article I missed the first time round but saw in Wired found that people who do this - the mimickers - are far more easily fooled by the mimickees than non-mimickers. When you mimick you're less able to tell if the other person is telling you a lie or not. Generally we're all pretty hopeless at detecting lies but when you mimick you're even worse. In fact the study - You want to know the truth? from the journal Psychological Science - suggests that people's ability to detect deception is improved when they are given explicit instructions not to mimic.

So now you know. Are you a sucker for a lie? Is that the secret of Alan Sugar's success - a man who would never knowingly mimic anyone?

More about health at work on malehealth.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We're now on twitter

Malehealth is soaring high with the tweeters - or is that twits? You can follow us at: http://twitter.com/#!/MHFmalehealth. (Or go to twitter and search for: @MHFmalehealth or jim pollard). Sign up. Right now it's like that awkward moment at a party before anyone turns up - and you know how painfully unhealthy that is for a host. Penetrating comment on the news and regular life-changing health tips - @MHFmalehealth is a real tweet for the soul.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NHS reform: a big challenge for a big society

Some say that to the Cameron Conservatives don't really regard the national debt as the terrible legacy of Labour mismanagement as they love to say but as a heaven sent opportunity. They argue that the Tory austerity package is more to do with an ideological commitment to reducing the size of the state - replacing big government with, snigger, the big society - than economics. Today's conference speech in which the Conservative leader appeared to reintroduce the old Elizabethan poor law distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor will only have increased those concerns.

So is the government plan for the NHS, evidence for or against this? If money was the main concern why spend an estimated £3 billion on another reorganisation - especially when you were constantly criticising Labour for behind the scenes fiddling while front-line services burned? Certainly the plan for GP consortia to replace Primary Care Trusts sounds horribly like GP fundholding, the disasterous pre-privatisation plan of the last Conservative government that hemorrhaged the NHS along an artificial purchaser-provider faultline.

The MHF wisely hasn't engaged with this ideological debate in its response to the government's health white paper. Instead it has stuck to the purely practical, offering the government help with, for example, a Gender Equalities Board to ensure that inequalities in health outcomes are addressed. This is one of 10 specific suggestions which if they are adopted could reform the NHS for the better. They won't protect the health service from the drip-drip of privatisation but they will protect the hundreds of men who die prematurely (before the age of 75) every single day. In a country where 42% of men die prematurely, they've got to be worth trying. Yes, 42% - a big number for a big society.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Will you put Viagra on the shopping list?

News that Tescos are joining Boots in selling drugs for erection problems over the counter without prescription - in this case Viagra - has obviously thrilled the sketch writers as MHF press officer Colin Penning reports on the MHF blog.

But there is a serious issue here. How would you feel about picking your Viagra or Cialis up with the weekly shop? Pleased with the convenience or a bit embarrassed to have to explain to your ten-year old daughter why Daddy's £52 treat is fine when her £5 doll is 'a waste of bloody money'. The men's health campaigner in me loves the idea of ED becoming an everyday supermarket conversation - as banal as last's night's Eastenders - but the man himself is squirming. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Anyone for tennis at BMA Awards

I was at the British Medical Association’s Book Awards last night. It was an awe-inspiring event for someone who gave up sciences at 16. I haven’t seen so many doctors in the same place since a fellow patient provided free drinks to celebrate the end of his treatment.

My book 'The User’s Guide to the Male Body' was highly commended in the category Popular Medicine – an interestingly named category as taking medicine is anything but. It didn’t win – beaten by a cracking book on the ins and outs of condoms.

The BMA also give out awards for what they call patient information, a category in which the MHF’s malehealth was highly commended a few years ago and for which our Yorkshire Man written by MHF president Dr Ian Banks was commended this year. The men’s health citation went to a booklet for men with enlarged prostates by the Urology Informed Decision Making Project. Well done to them.

However, if these awards are any guide, men’s health in the UK is rather like British men’s tennis over the last decade or two – a couple of good players and not a lot else. Apart from those three titles – mine, Ian’s and the Project’s – there were few other nominations that could have been considered ‘men’s health’. By contrast I counted five nominations in the patient information category alone about breasts and breast cancer including the winner from Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Men’s health still has a very long way to go before it is truly mainstreamed. Women’s health by contrast is like French men’s tennis – a new semi-finalist in every competition.

The overall patient info winner was the healthy hearts kit from the British Heart Foundation. The overall winner of the BMA Medical Book of the Year Award 2010 was 'Surgical Exposures in Orthopaedics: The Anatomic Approach'. Ah, so that’s the secret of success: a catchy title!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Getting it right online

Two interesting statistics found their way to my in-box today. The National Statistics Office reported that 9.2 million UK adults have never used the Internet. The other is that the number of searches on Google and other search engines in the USA over the last year has gone down by 16% from 10.5 billion to 8.8 billion.

To me, as editor of a men's health website the first of these stats tells me that a key group of people that we need to reach are never going to even see malehealth. Many of these are people who would benefit enormously from its information. We must not forget them.

But what explains the decline in searches? Increased bookmarking? Greater use of smartphones? The economic downturn meaning people are buying less? And what does it mean for those of us who are trying to deliver health information via websites? These are not rhetorical questions. I really would like to know.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ian's child-care advice for the prime minister

The BBC is a unique institution. Its bosses may at times be the corporation's own worst enemies but it's staffed by heroes. Where else could you find MHF president Dr Ian Banks giving childcare advice to the prime minister?

Yes, any blokes getting into a misty eyed, nappy-changing mood now that David Cameron has become a father again, should look no further than Ian's terrific Baby Manual. It combines his medical wisdom, unique writing style and experience as a father of four to create pretty much the perfect book for the new Dad. I hope Sam has bought the prime minister a copy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Speed camera debate suggests public know where to draw the line

Saying you'll 'end the war on the motorist' ticks so many boxes for the new government, it's like the Cones Hotline never happened. Cynics say it's the only war they can end but I won't be going there. My concern is road safety. Fast cars kill kids. It's not a fact we're keen to accept but fact it is.

In theory stopping people driving too fast by fining them when they do it is an idea we can all sign up to. The debate has been distorted by the perception that speed camera partnerships are a licence to private companies and the individuals that run them to extort money from the motorist. The cameras are placed not in the dangerous places where accidents have occurred but nearby where they can catch the maximum number. I have no idea if this is true but suddenly the debate is not about the real issue: safety. This is what happens when you blur the line between public and private. The speed cameras debate suggests the public instinctively understands what the state should be doing and what it shouldn't.

That being so, motorists who don't like private companies profiting from their occasional zeal on the gas pedal should ask themselves how they feel about private companies profiting from their next doctor's visit or their child's education as health and education services are contracted out. If you don't like speed camera partnerships will you like 'free' schools (when the private sector steps in for the local authority) or a GP-run NHS (when the private sector steps in for the primary care trusts and strategic health authorities)? Governments who want to be reelected should think about it too.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ian Banks: Cuban Heals

A guest post today from the Men's Health Forum's president, the wonderful Dr Ian Banks. He's just back from a well-earned holiday in Cuba. Like me, he's blogging in a personal capacity here not on behalf of the MHF:

Ian BanksThere is an old saying in Cuba. In fact just about everything in Cuba is old especially the cars. I sat behind the wheel of a pre war Pontiac. This was just about as far as I got as there was no engine and the horse power was too busy eating grass. Forget the Tardis, travelling back in time you need no more than a Virgin Atlantic ticket to Havana, mind you Dr Who probably enjoys a tad more leg room. Immigration was swift until I was mistaken for a Cuban, beards are common not least because you can’t get hold of a half decent rusty razor blade. I wondered why they were so keen to make sure I was not ‘native’, all would come clear later in this most amazing journey into the past but also paradoxically the future.

Cuba is economically blockaded by the USA. So OK, common knowledge but the impact of this misguided and vicious action extends to far more than beards, women cannot get sanitary towels until the age of 14 and then they are rationed to 10 packets per year, the moon seems to skip a beat.

Everything is recycled, and I do mean everything, horses are a major form of local intra city transport yet streets are completely free of any dung. This is collected and resurfaces as courgettes. Although the economy revolves around sugar they actually import it along with oil. A favourite sport is to stand in the clear blue sea with a bottle of Havana Gold while getting jelly fish stung and eaten alive by mosquitoes. Please do note that you cannot get mosquito repellent or fly spray even from ‘international health’ (the private sector for tourists). I followed the Cuban custom and most mosquitoes in my vicinity lived on Bloody Marys.

So why was it so exhilarating? Well for starters they were the most literate people (even in English) I have met despite such an externally imposed poverty but ironically their average life expectancy exceeds that of the country denying them access to modern medicines. Unlike the UK or the USA which import fully trained doctors and nurses they actually export doctors and import medical students sending them back home fully trained. Doctors pay is the same as for plumbers but at least you can get one out at night.

There is no shortage of people wanting to train for medicine and women have equal status. The reasons are complex, being a doctor provides respect but also the potential to travel internationally denied to almost all other Cubans. Even so there is a very real pride in simply being a doctor in Cuba, perhaps something eroding in the UK under past and especially present administrations.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back to the 1980s

When David Cameron packaged himself as the heir to Blair and dragged his party kicking and screaming into the modern world, many assumed it was for political expediency. Then he went into coalition with the Lib Dems and even the most hardened cynic softened.

So what should we make of a leaked letter in which public health minister Anne Milton suggests she'll be abolishing free school milk? Milton could not have evoked the spectre of Margaret Thatcher more directly if she had waved her handbag around her head like a mace and despatched a task-force. The press coverage resonates with the screeching and hissing of a thousand cats coming out of the bag. Former Tory health minister Stephen Dorrell tried to put former nurse Milton in her place this morning on the Today programme by asserting that the proposal had only been discussed at a 'junior level'. Hmmm.

In yesterday's Observer a gentlemen described by the paper's subs as Britain's leading GP (actually Steve Field, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners) lays it on the line to patients: Don't take offence if we lecture you on how to stay alive and healthy. He is arguing for folk to take more responsibility for their health care. That's a fine idea - one men's health campaigners have always championed - for those who can afford it. But in some of Field's hardline populism (let's call obese people fat), there is another chilling echo of the past. Remember when the poor were blamed for being poor? Victorian values they called it.

The MHF often describes its goal as it own redundancy - that a nation of healthy men will render us obsolete. With male life expectancy improving under the last government and the gap with female life expectancy narrowing that day was not impossible to imagine. It is less easy now. Things are changing and some terrible ideas that we thought were dead and buried seem to be back among us.

There are apparently sane men walking around the streets with mullet haircuts. Is it back to the 80s in politics too?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Join the MHF/malehealth advisory panel

The MHF is looking to recruit a men's advisory panel to give men a louder voice when it comes to their health. This sounds like a great idea to me.

The panel will be asking men what they want from the NHS and the MHF. This includes the content on malehealth so the website itself will benefit too. I'd really like the panel to reflect as wide a cross-section of blokes as possible - all ages, classes, backgrounds and opinions. No special requirements whatsoever other than an X chromosome. Why not give it a go?

• Meanwhile thanks for the kind comments on the commendation of my book The User's Guide to The Male Body in the Medical Journalist's Association's book awards. The book has now also been highly commended in the British Medical Association's book awards. I went to the journalists' do earlier this year and the BMA one will be in September. It's the perfect opportunity to conduct some serious research: who really provides the best plonk? The hacks or the docs?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Smokers tilting at windmills

There is an army of Don Quixotes out there who, when they aren't nipping out for a quick fag, are hunting through cyberspace for signs of anti-smoking giants. Whenever we write about smoking - or more particularly smoking bans - the comments and the emails arrive. It happened a couple of years ago when they found an article I'd written a few years previously that mentioned, alongside the great Joe Jackson among other things, passive smoking.

It's happened again. This time the offending article is one reporting on a poll conducted by You Gov suggesting that most smokers now support the smoking ban. The poll was commissioned by anti-smoking organisation Ash and our story makes this very clear. I actually nearly didn't publish it all because frankly I don't think it's really new. We know that most smokers want to quit and most smokers I know tell me that the public places ban has reduced their consumption. Where's the story?

I honestly think that this ship has sailed, boys. Tilting at windmills just means the smoke blows in your face. And even big tobacco know that. If you want to read some articles on malehealth, and I'm delighted you do, there are far more interesting ones than this tired old tale. Start with this one: it answers the question we all want to know the answer to: how many more years will I live if I make healthier choices?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Malehealth now on facebook

John Pritchard, our great volunteer, has taken malehealth into the exciting world of social networks. We now have a page on facebook. Apparently people have friends but pages have people who like them so please visit the page and say you like it. Even if you love it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

EU investigating till receipts scandal

Well, not quite. But further to yesterday's post about the men's health risks associated with till receipts - MHF president Ian Banks reckons they're fine so long as you eat them with low-fat dressing - there is activity at European level to reduce our exposure to BPA.

Following an 'urgent request' from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority is reviewing the compound, which is used in plastics and appears to interfere with hormones, and will provide an 'up-to-date overview of the safety of BPA'.

An open letter from various scientists and international health organisations and NGOs including the Health and Environment Alliance is calling for a reduction in the EU's Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI). The letter says that 'only a tiny minority of studies have articulated that BPA exposure is safe… but it is these few flawed studies that EFSA previously relied on to declare BPA safe.'

A reduced TDI could lead to a reduction in or elimination of the amount of BPA in food contact materials, such as baby bottles, drinking water bottles and the lining of tins containing food and drink. No mention, yet, of till receipts.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Plastic that's not so fantastic for male shoppers

Shocking shopping news this morning with the Daily Telegraph reporting that the levels of a toxic compound used in plastics - Bisphenol A (BPA) - on some till receipts are enough to suppress male hormones in the body and possibly cause impotence. Gulp. It's enough to make your credit card wilt. (And gives a whole new meaning to the phrase hard cash.)

It sound ridiculous - at least one MHFer asked if it was April Fools Day - but BPA is a real live health issue. In the US, environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council is suing the US Food and Drug Administration over its failure to regulate BPA. Canada has banned it. France has banned its use in baby-feeding bottles and, with The Independent and Breast Cancer UK leading the campaign, many experts are calling for something similar here.

The issue has been around a while. BPA causes brain damage in monkeys - there's a shopping-related gag in there if you want to look for it - and there are wider concerns over plastic bottles.

Whether there's enough in a till receipt to make a difference as Berlin-based urologist Frank Sommer apparently said is another question but if, as I have, you've just finished your annual accounts and have been handling a whole year's worth of till receipts, it's enough to make you start buying the Telegraph - well, not quite. But it would certainly be a good thing if this silly season story finally gets the BPA issue the serious treatment it needs.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Desperately seeking doctors

We've 'enabled comments', in the technical jargon, on the MHF and malehealth websites. This means, as you'll all know from more technically advanced websites, that you can say what you think about the articles online. We look forward to hearing from you.

On malehealth, we've already had hundreds of comments but most of them we cannot publish. This is not because malehealth readers are foul-mouthed perverts or link-happy spammers but because most of them are questions from people looking for help with something health-related that they're worried about.

Unfortunately we cannot answer these questions at present. I wish we could. If we could find a suitable sponsor, we'd do it tomorrow. Let us know if you or your employer or a rich friend would be interested in sponsoring an Ask The Doctor section on malehealth. It will probably cost less than you think - our docs don't charge Harley Street rates.

In the meantime, if you have a health question, you need to ask your GP or contact NHS Direct. There's more in our what to do when you're ill section.

Friday, June 4, 2010

World Health Organisation catches a cold

It is hard not to comment on reports from the British Medical Journal, the Bureau of Investigative Reporting and the Council of Europe of a lack of transparency and conflict of interest at the World Health Organisation.

We don't know if the emergency committee that decided to declare a swine-flu pandemic had commercial links with the drug companies that stood to profit from their decision because the names of that committee are secret.

What we do know is that there was a conflict of interest around earlier guidance given around the need to stockpile drugs and an apparent change in the definition of a 'pandemic'.

A previous conflict of interest and a present lack of transparency are bound to lead to questions around the WHO's independence. At the very least they need to tell us who is on the secret committee. Their credibility is at stake.

Friday, May 21, 2010

User's Guide 'highly-commended'

A few people - one of whom I wasn't even related to in any way - have asked me how my book The User's Guide to the Male Body got on in the Medical Journalist's Awards. Well, I didn't win but, hey, as my mum always says, it's not the winning, it's the taking part. (This is also of course the motto of the England football team.) Anyway, the book was highly-commended and there are pix and more details on the malehealth website. Thanks to those who have bought the book - I hope you both like it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The dangers of self diagnosis

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the blogosphere.

This column has returned from the dead, bug-eyed and gurning, more often than Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, each time with a new improved excuse for its unremarked absence. Well, I’ve got a good one this time. You’ll like this. I’ve been laid low by a tooth infection.

Now the phrase ‘go and see a health professional’ probably appears in malehealth more often than the Vic has been torched in Eastenders. It’s ever-present. Not sure about something, don’t try to guess, ask a doc. Let me tell you, it’s bloody good advice.

A few years ago I had a problem with bleeding gums and sensitive teeth. A visit to the dentist and a special toothpaste sorted it out easily enough. So this time when I had similar symptoms and sipping tea was like someone drilling through my molars with a blunt Black and Decker, I assumed the same problem. The special tooth-paste seemed to help a little and I made no connection between this and the procession of colds and coughs I'd been enduring so stoically throughout the winter.

Then suddenly I had the sort of toothache that had me wailing like a five year old on the karaoke machine, cutting deals with God, the devil and several tumblers of whisky. I had no choice but to go to the dentist. He poked around, unleashed a river of pus and removed – or to use the technical term, whacked with a small hammer until it fell off – an old crown that fell into my lap looking like the barnacle burnished underside of a long-sunk dredger.

The result: a temporary crown, an extracted milk tooth, pain-killers and an antibiotics. The latter were about two inches wide and presumably designed for use on horses. After a week or so in which I've been higher than a helium-filled Pete Doherty, they seem to have both cleared up the infection and improved my dressage. Next step: more root canal surgery. Hmmm.

A routine visit to the dentist would have saved me a lot of pain. Health columnist, heed thyself.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Can Gordon Brown deliver a remedy that will make all men feel better?

What has the general election got to do with men's health? Or more to the point, what the hell do I think I'm doing blogging about it?

Actually I think an electoral system where most votes don't count is very unhealthy - and I don't just mean for our politics. What the system means is that most of us simply aren't being listened to. In my experience, this feeling, the sense of powerlessness, the sense of everything being beyond your control is central to a lot of male mental health problems. Of course, I'm not saying proportional representation will solve domestic violence, drunkenness or other manifestations of male distress but it will increase everyone's sense of genuine involvement in society and that has got be a good thing for us all. In short, a sense of impotent isolation kills and 'first past the post' politics contributes to this.

Can anyone deliver the change we need? prime minister Gordon Brown just about has the votes to create a grand coalition to introduce electoral reform but while this change might make most men feel better, it's probably going to make the man who needs to do it feel very ill indeed. I think there's much to admire about Gordon Brown so who knows - perhaps after a decent night's sleep? I'm not betting on it. Betting, now that's enough cause of male mental anguish!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

'Of course I'm enjoying it, darling - I'm about to update my status'

According to a new survey, 11% of American under 25s check their emails and texts during sex.

The survey was conducted by a consumer electronics website for the purposes of self-publicity so the whole thing needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt. But nonetheless the figures suggest a worrying level of addiction. Some 56% of social media users feel a ‘need’ to check FaceBook at least once a day (48% check during the night or when they very first wake up) and there are an impressive 12% who check in every couple of hours.

Is this the latest madness from the country that brought you President Bush or just proof that people will say anything in an opinion poll? Given that in umpteen surveys at least 3% of the US population claim to have been abducted by space aliens, it’s probably a bit of both but all the same.

Perhaps it depends what sort of sex you’re engaged in – many of the lads in the age group concerned will have a hand free most of the time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why get active? It's a question of health.

I've spent most of the last week or so preparing the malehealth online quiz A Question of Health. It's all part of Men's Health Week 2010 - the theme of which is physical activity and the aim of which is to get a million more men moving.

Winners of this online quiz will be invited to the Week's national launch event to compete in a live Question of Health against a celebrity team including snooker legend Jimmy White, former World Darts Champion Andy Fordham, and rugby league celebrity Steve Prescott. Quizmaster is fisherman and broadcaster Keith Arthur. There will be sporting prizes for the winning team. And prizes for those who do well in the quiz but can't come to the event.

A Question of Health will be held at West Ham FC (Upton Park, London) on Monday 14 June, 4.00 to 6.00pm and will be followed by a drinks reception and a free tour of West Ham's ground.

There are two further quizzes just for fun - well worth doing to warm-up for the real thing!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A reader writes and why a runner runs

Quite incredibly someone seems to have noticed this blog. It's been so neglected during the upgrading of the malehealth and Men's Health Forum websites that the last thing I was expecting was to be mentioned in someone's ten best blogs list.

But Nursing School Search.com, the US site for would-be nurses looking for info on colleges, education and careers, have included it in the general section of its 100 Best Men’s Health & Fitness Blogs. Thanks, guys. They say the malehealth website is 'a great place to find health information for men, and the editor maintains this informative blog as well' - now I just need to do it!

Marathon correspondence

Interesting research from the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference following yesterday's post on my mate Ian's marathon run. A survey of marathon runners found that men and women tend to run for different reasons. Men were more likely to give personal goal achievement and competition, such as time or place in the field while women were more likely to run for reasons around feeling better - ‘to improve my mood’ or ‘to feel at peace with the world’ - or to keep weight down. What do you think Ian?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Trying to run faster than the missus

A good friend of mine braved the hottest day of the year so far and the imminent descent of the ash cloud to run the Brighton Marathon yesterday. Apparently his main motivation was that once his wife ran the London one last year he 'really had no choice but to try and go faster'. Hmm, what can I say except there's plenty more on the idiosyncracies of the male psyche on malehealth. Of course, there are, I imagine, many good reasons for being able to outrun your wife and Ian is pleased to report that he managed this.

If you'd like to support Ian, he was doing the run for the Alzheimer's Society. He says: 'It's not something I'd given much thought to until a relative of mine began to suffer the effects and I've seen the impact on the rest of the family. With the advances in medicine to cure other illnesses it's a sad fact that many of us are likely to have our lives or the lives of ones we love impacted.' Very true. There's more on Alzeimer's on the site and of course, everything you need if you want to train to run a marathon yourself. You can sponsor Ian here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

My User's Guide has been shortlisted for a respected book award

My most recent book The User's Guide to the Male Body (Sheldon 2009; £8.99) has been shortlisted for the Medical Journalists' Association Open Book Awards in the self-help general readership section.

Now I've no idea how many general self-help books were published during the eligible period but all the same, it's great to have something that you've done recognised by your peers (especially as I'm not even a member of the Medical Journalists' Association!) Thanks very much. Since the book's not medical or even technical and at just 120 pages makes good health as simple as possible, I'm hoping it's the writing, based on the interviews I've done for malehealth, that they liked.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Our first newsletter of the year

I've just sent out the first malehealth newsletter of the year and the first since the site was redesigned. I must confess that the Men's Health Forum's sites are still a little buggy but malehealth seems to have fared a little better in this respect than the organisation's website. The sites have always had great content - i hope now it's a little easier to find.

If you received the newsletter, hope it worked. let me know what you think. If you'd like to receive the next one - they go about once a month - sign up here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Is feminism man's best friend?

In a world where women put in two-thirds of the working hours for less than one-tenth of the income, I've long felt that feminism seems to have done men more favours than women. We've shaken off the shackles of traditional sex roles and now have the right to be interested in our kids, to be bored to death by cars, to be useless at DIY etc while women seem resolutely chained to lower-paid jobs and the kitchen sink. I'm exaggerating for effect obviously.

My short opinion piece to this effect in Prospect magazine offended some and I now seem involved in an interesting little online spat. The publishers not surprisingly are keen to publicise it so if anyone wants to pitch in, please do.

My original was why feminism favours men. Laurie Penny's reply is here and my latest installment here.

Meanwhile, apologies for the lack of updates to the websites (and this blog!) I'm so bogged down in technical stuff there's been no time for writing!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The bully or the bullied?

Accusations about Gordon Brown all over the media.

Bullying is a pernicious and soul destroying experience. Nobody should be subjected to it at work. Unfortunately modern working culture makes it more and more likely as the increasingly heavy workload buck is passed down the line. Work is becoming the major cause of ill-health in the developed world - much of the toll is mental.

Bullies seek to destroy an individual's individuality. This also sounds like a good description of the media pack of wolves in a frenzy of blood-lust and it is possible that voters will wind up feeling that Gordon Brown is as much the victim of bullying as he is a bully. What is clear is that people who report bullying have to be able to do so in total confidence and if organisations like the National Bullying Helpline (NBH) don't understand this their days are surely numbered. This is a shame as an organisation like this is sorely needed.

Bullying at work is too important an issue to become a political football. If the NBH have evidence against Gordon Brown, his office or indeed any other minister's office, they should pursue them through internal human resources, the cabinet office, the victim's trade union, even due process of law. In short, there are many channels more appropriate than the screaming press release.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The logic of Labour's inequalities agenda

While all around they've been trashing Gordon Brown I've written before on the Men's Health Forum's website about the good things Labour have done for public health and men's health. By seeing health as an inequality issue (with men - unusually - getting the rawer deal), they effectively opened a door that the Conservatives had kept tightly shut.

But recent figures suggest the low-hanging fruit may have all been picked, that the win-wins may have all been won. (Insert the management cliché of your choice.) The Office for National Statistics suggests that the reduction in smoking has come to a coughing and spluttering halt. In the ONS's latest annual lifestyle survey 21% of adults smoked. The same as in 2007. There was even a small increase in smoking among people in 'routine and manual groups'. At the same time we learn that suicides increased during 2008 - the first rise since the 1998 peak. The male rate remains triple that of the female and indeed the gap has widened.

The TUC have pointed out today that the link between unemployment and depression was established a lifetime ago (1940 if not earlier). Their Recession Report cites research by the Social Exclusion Task Force showing the link between depression and job loss is much the same now as it was nearly 20 years ago. In 2008, as in the 2001 recession, as in 1991 recession, about a third of people who lost their job got depressed compared to less than one in five who stayed in work.

So why are we so reluctant to see a link between the economic structures we have in place and public health? Not of interest to the middle England middle ground 50,000 swing voters who determine UK elections? Come on, Gordon, you can do better than that.

Job insecurity kills men and makes them ill. If Labour really can bite the bullet here and follow the implications of their inequality agenda through to a conclusion that these recent figures have only made more obvious, could it yet pull the election iron from the fire of recession? Or will I have to find some new management clichés?

Monday, January 25, 2010

MHF dates for the diary

Continuing problems with the websites are making uploading difficult. Sorry.

MHF visitors might like to note the following dates for the diary:

24 February - deadline for entries for the the chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson's Public Health Awards.

9 March - MHF Conference ‘Marmot and the Third Sector: Addressing health inequalities together’ in central London offers the third sector a unique opportunity to discuss Michael Marmot's review.

30 March - Conference on 'Finding solutions: effective practice in male mental health at the University of Reading on 30 March (10am – 4pm). This image should be available as a flyer soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Malehealth back from the dead

We're back. The MHF websites are now live.

Malehealth is here. The MHF's organisational website has been upgraded too.

They're still works in progress and will be for some time to come. Please be gentle us. We've had, ahem, one or two little hiccups along the way. If you find a problem you'd like to alert us to please include the address of the page you found it on. Hope you like the new sites.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The excitement mounts

Redesigning websites is a nightmare. I rediscovered an article I'd written called 'Repressed anger at work can kill' - never a truer word.

We've had more teething troubles than a baby crocodile. Hope to be going live this week.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sorry our sites are down

The last couple of months have been very difficult ones in the history of the Men's Health Forum websites and as a result of a dispute completely out of my control as editor of the sites, both of them are currently off line.

Please accept my apologies for this on behalf of the Forum. We hope to be back online very soon with new sites with new design and greater interactivity but all the usual quality content. Please bear with us. Thanks very much.