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Men's health movement update with Dr. Larry Goldenberg


Geoffrey Woollard - January 30, 2012

In 2009 Dr. Larry Goldenberg initiated the Men's Health Institute in British Columbia, and is calling for a network of similar provincial centres to form a National Institute for Men's Health. He lights up when I ask what he wants UBC students to know about the Men's Health Initiative. "I want them to know they're not invincible... know you're risk factors... and develop good habits. Know your family history... phone your grandfather if he is still alive". He points me to manupcanada.ca - it loads quickly and "Healthy is the New Badass" stares me in the face in capitals. There are a number of videos play out men's health issues: Own Your Health. Eat Real Food. Sweat if Out.

He is quick to mention the Men's Health movement takes nothing away from similar movements who have a 30 year head start like Women's Health and Children Health. He simply wants to learn from their insights.

Our conversation is brief, so Dr. Goldenberg emails me an article published this year where he advocates for this initiative. He lists numerous statistics health outcomes that differ between the sexes, and laments that "Having a Y chromosome should not be seen as possessing a self destruct mechanism".

Dr. Goldenberg catches peoples attention with the quip: "Male health does indeed go well beyond the penis and the prostate!" He elaborates, "Health policy should raise awareness of men’s health issues across the spectrum of age, race, socioeconomic status, and geography." This is particularly relevant in such a multicultural city as Vancouver. Dr. Goldenberg mentiones such diverse issues as "young men and suicide, prostate disease, alcohol misuse, obesity, hypertension, and sexual health."

Is it catching on? Dr. Goldenberg's mission includes spreading the message of Men's Health through "community-based, male-friendly models for delivering services." Although the videos at manupcanada.ca have a strange Movember sense to them, he's hoping they will "go viral with men in their 20 - 30s". Fundraising is another key to success, and Dr. Goldenberg is on gaurd to resist unwelcome industry influence.

I contacted Bear Johal, the Director of Events at Top Guns, which is a campus charity organization who this year fundraised for an expensive maching for breast cancer detection and diagnosis. The key to Top Gun's success has been to set concrete fundraising goals. Mr. Johal stresses "Top Guns is run completely by student volunteers and thus possesses NO administration costs." Top Guns has branched out to more than just breast cancer, and the Kelowna branch specializes in mental health. "Perhaps men's health will be an issue one year (maybe even at the UBC division)".

The Men's Health Institute as acting as a hub for men's issues. There are many underresearched areas, declared untouchable. It might be politically dangerous to even bring up this topic, but many men sink into depression after experiencing lost fatherhood after an abortion. I had to search as far as Maddison USA to track down an expert in this area, Catherine T. Coyle, RN, MSN, Ph.D., who mentions "specific emotions identified among men include anger, anxiety, guilt, grief, and powerlessness". Many men are hesitant to seek out counciling. In one of her publications some men even meet "full diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder".

Wheather or not the Men's Health Institute branches out into some of these areas will depend on the findings of the multidisciplinary research teams that have been called for by Dr. Goldenberg. In any case, I am confident that a network of provincial centres will have benefits covering the whole person and identity of men in a culturally aware manner. Certainly men will find it easier to deal with their health conditions once plugged into a community where they can connect with each other in an old-fasioned spirit of friendship and trust.

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