Do employers recognise the problem?

Some employers, and most local community health projects, are taking steps to raise health awareness among male workers. For example:

Workplace health programmes

One employer has achieved a high take-up of workplace health initiatives among its mainly male workforce through a well-publicised wellness-at-work scheme. First of all, the employer carried out a voluntary health survey of the workforce, which revealed that cancer and ischaemic heart disease (inadequate blood supply to the heart) were the two biggest health risks.

The wellness programme took account of this finding, so that workers are now given a twice-yearly personal health assessment, undertaken by a fully qualified nurse. Tests last around two hours, during which employees complete a general health questionnaire covering stress, alcohol intake, diet and physical activity. Measurements include blood cholesterol, urinalysis and blood pressure. Further tests include flexibility and a computer-based fitness test. The session ends with a discussion on recommended lifestyle changes and individual responsibilities, with a GP referral if advisable. The health scheme also includes smoking cessation support and subsidised access to local leisure facilities.

Tackling obesity

Almost a fifth of adult males are obese. As a chronic condition, obesity requires lifelong treatment, similar to diabetes or hypertension. Some occupational health specialists now ask about waistline measurements as a routine part of their employee health assessments. Waist is as important a measure as weight. One health specialist suggests that "anyone with a waistline exceeding 102 centimetres should be considering lifestyle changes", such as diet and physical exercise.

Prostate and testicular cancer

Safety reps at the CWU communications workers' union used prostate cancer awareness month to get the "If in doubt - get it checked out!" message across to male workers. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer for men and accounts for almost a quarter of male cancer cases. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Every year, nearly 46,700 men are diagnosed and more than 11,287 die from the disease.

But if it is found early and treated, the chances of survival are excellent: 84% of those diagnosed are still alive 10 years later. The reps stressed the importance of being aware of the symptoms and seeing a GP as early as possible. Slowing of the urinary stream and/or urinating more frequently than usual, often at night, are the most common symptoms of early prostate cancer. 

The CWU also alerts its members to the prevalence of testicular cancer: testicular cancer is the 16th most common cancer among males in the UK, with around 2,418 cases diagnosed in 2014. It is more common in younger men than in older men, with more than eight in 10 cases diagnosed in the under-50s.

The union has launched a document The seven health checks men must do  which includes key information on testicular and prostate cancer.

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