Men’s health needs national focus, says doctor
Fri, Nov 25, 2011
Though there’s plenty of focus on women and children’s health, men are being left behind, according to a Vancouver doctor who is leading a push for a new national NGO.
Dr. Larry Goldenberg, a physician at the Vancouver General Hospital prostate centre and head of the department of urologic sciences at the University of British Columbia, is in Ottawa this month to convince MPs that the government should provide start-up funding for a national society for men’s health.
“We need an identity for men’s health,” Goldenberg told iPolitics. “What we need is an NGO that will catalyze collaboration and co-operation across the country.”
What that NGO might look like is still somewhat vague, but Goldenberg stressed that he wants a national forum that can raise awareness and become a brand name for men’s health issues across the country.
He envisions an organization initially funded by a government grant that would work as a one-stop resource. It could be used to educate men on how to self-risk assess, as well as partner with governments to provide better standards of care, guidelines and opportunities to reach men.
“If there’s a good activity in Nova Scotia, we should know about it in Vancouver,” Goldenberg said. “There’s no way of getting it across the country right now, but if there was a national body that was looking at all the different provinces and territories and saying, ‘they’ve got a really good idea over here, it could be applied across the nation.’”
He is describing something similar to aboutmen.ca and Man Up Canada, two affiliated sites Goldenberg help set up in British Columbia that provide information about male health, and encourage men to take a more active role in monitoring their lifestyle, along with promoting the idea for a more comprehensive approach to the issue.
“We set up the model there,” he said. “We could spend five years further developing the model in British Columbia, but it just occurred to me one day that there’s a lot of people now paying attention to men’s health, there’s a real movement towards it right now, the timing seems good to capitalize on a groundswell, and let’s go national.”
Goldenberg’s visit to Ottawa, where he met with MPs to discuss the possibility of getting a focused approach on men’s health onto the agenda during the Canadian Health Accord negotiations, coincides with Movember, an international movement that encourages men to grow a moustache to raise money for prostate cancer research.
But prostate cancer is only one of a litany of men’s health issues that need attention, he said.
Across the board, there are issues affecting men of all ages that need more attention: learning disabilities in boys; testicular cancer and depression in young men; sexual dysfunction and prostate problems in middle age; and then prostate cancer, urinary troubles, bone and muscle disorders in old age.
“We have a lot of preventable, premature morbidity and mortality at every age group across the lifespan of men and much of it can be addressed… by co-ordinated, targeted activities,” Goldenberg said.
The NGO he envisions does not have to be part of a national men’s health strategy, or necessarily part of any policy, but he feels it’s necessary there be a body that can track what is going on with men’s health nationally and can encourage engagement across a number of sectors, both private and public.
He just needs some initial resources to get that organization running.
“Give me a five-year runway,” he said. In that time, the organization could gather sponsorship, bring philanthropists on board, develop a foundation and partner with other organizations to raise the necessary funds to keep going.
“But I need something to help me get off the ground, and I think that’s where the feds would come in,” he said. “I don’t care what the amount is. Just give me a starting point.”