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Community nurses can play 'vital role' in improving men's health - report

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Community nurses should never underestimate the shame that men feel about discussing their weight and wellbeing, a new report argues.

The report by community nursing charity the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) also says staff should not confront men with challenging questions about their health that might be “immediately off-putting”. 

“The outstanding success of the projects clearly demonstrate the impact and long-term benefit of nurse-led interventions”

Dr Crystal Oldman

The report – Men’s health: nurse led projects in the community – is informed by the work of nine nursing teams who were awarded QNI funding for year-long projects in 2017.

With research showing that men are almost a third less likely than women to see a GP, the report offered guidance on how community nurses could work more effectively with men.

The nine projects reported that using the right phrase in relation to health and exercise made it more likely that men would take up a healthier lifestyle.

Using phrases like “healthy eating” rather than “dieting”, and “fitness” rather than “weight loss”, made a difference in getting men to take better care of themselves.

While nurses had to choose their words carefully neither should they be verbose or vague, the guidance stated. Instead they should try to speak in a “concise, direct and factual style” that men are more likely to listen to.

“Community nurses can play a vital role in reducing premature and avoidable deaths in men”

Steph Aiken

Health outcomes for men lag well behind women. Men are more likely to die prematurely with 61% of all male deaths in England and Wales under the age of 75 compared to 26% of women. Three quarters of suicide fatalities are male and men are significantly less likely than women to seek help for mental health problems.

The projects featured in the report were led by nurses in various specialisms in the community and primary care such as sexual health, general practice and homeless health. They included introducing military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to a new treatment programme and improving the health and wellbeing of men on antipsychotic medication.

The nurses found it was important to make the most of major milestones in a man’s life, such as becoming a father or starting retirement. At such moments men were likely to be more receptive to health messages, the report said.

Other advice was to set up men-only groups, especially for weight management, and to pay special attention when men were about to leave a room: “Men often reveal the key issue when hovering at the door to leave,” the report said.

“There are specific and well documented challenges to improving the health of male patients of all ages,” said Dr Crystal Oldman, the QNI’s chief executive.

“The wide range of nursing roles in the community – and their diverse and holistic approaches to care – enables nurses to work with men to improve their physical, mental and emotional health. 

Queen's Nursing Institute

Unsafe hospital discharge a ‘major risk’ for homeless patients

Dr Crystal Oldman

“The outstanding success of the nine men’s health projects described in this report clearly demonstrate the impact and long-term benefit of nurse-led interventions.”

Peter Baker, the publication’s author, said: “This new report aims to share good practice from the QNI men’s health projects and to encourage and enable more nurses to do what they can to address the high rates of premature and avoidable death in men, as well as specific issues like mental health, cancer and heart disease.”

The Royal College of Nursing welcomed the report.

“This report shows the importance of targeting seldom heard groups and tailoring specialist care to meet the different needs in our society,” said Steph Aiken, the RCN’s deputy director of nursing.

“Community nurses offer a wide range of care, from one-off advice to managing services, helping people manage long-term conditions and keeping people out of hospital. They can play a vital role in reducing premature and avoidable deaths in men.”

The report will be launched at the QNI’s annual conference this week.

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