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.