mens group

The role of policy in improving men's health

Policies that take account of men’s health are a critically-important first step towards the design, implementation and delivery of services that lead to better health outcomes. Progress on policy is urgently needed in light of the continuing unnecessarily poor state of men’s health globally: male life expectancy currently lags five years behind female life expectancy and the ‘gap’ is predicted to increase over the next 15 years. There are also emerging issues concerning a number of specific health issues, including prostate cancer which, globally, is now the second most commonly occurring cancer in men.

There has been some progress on engaging policymakers in men’s health in a few European countries (notably Ireland, where there have been two national men’s health policies since 2008) and also in Australia and Brazil, both of which also have men’s health policies.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) centrally has begun to take an interest in the impact of male gender norms on health, as shown in its recent report on primary health care and universal health coverage, but this has yet to result in any practical action. The WHO European region agreed a men’s health strategy in 2018 and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) published a report on masculinities and health in November 2019.

In most countries, despite the clear evidence that men’s health outcomes are unsatisfactory and represent a heavy burden on health services, limited progress has been made in engaging policymakers in men’s health and in embedding men’s health in health policy and practice. This is true of men’s health in general but also in respect of specific issues of particular relevance to men such as prostate cancer and suicide.

To accelerate progress towards the inclusion of men’s health into policy, new insights are needed into:

  • The barriers to policymaker engagement in men’s health at all levels (internationally, nationally and locally).
  • The potential impact of ‘male-friendly’ policies on men’s health, drawing on case-studies of existing policies on men’s health (e.g. in Ireland) as well as potential benefits elsewhere.
  • Opportunities for advocacy work to advance men’s health policy.
  • Strategies and tactics for effectively engaging policymakers.

This project will examine these issues with particular reference to prostate cancer as a case study.

The methodology used to prepare the report will be a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods including:

  • A literature review of English language research. This will cover any evidence of policy specifically on prostate cancer or how the disease is included in national cancer plans.
  • An online multinational survey of men’s health, prostate and other organisations, men’s health advocates, researchers and other relevant stakeholders. The target sample size for the survey is ≥100.
  • A series of semi-structured interviews with key participants in a number of countries including men’s health and prostate organisations and advocates, researchers, health policymakers in and outside of government, and politicians. The target sample size for the interviews is ≥20.
  • While the study will be global in scope, its focus will be on those regions and countries for which most information is available (primarily Europe, North America and Australia).

The types of organisations engaged in the survey and interviews will include, besides GAMH’s own members and organisations in the global public health and prostate cancer fields.

The primary objective of the project is to produce a report that will fill gaps in knowledge about the inclusion of men’s health in policy and provide the evidence base for the delivery of effective advocacy work. This report will be of value to GAMH, its members and others with an interest in men’s health as well as prostate cancer.

The project has been funded by an educational grant of EUR 25,000.00 from Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA), a Novartis company that is developing nuclear medicine treatments for cancer. AAA will neither seek nor have influence on the project’s design, delivery or findings. The relationship between GAMH and AAA will at all times be conducted in line with the ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry 2019 and GAMH’s ethical policy which governs its relationships with partner organisations, funders and other stakeholders.

The project will be completed by late-March/early-April 2020.

3 January 2020