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Taking men's health into the workplace

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It is well known that health inequalities exist between men and women. Men die on average five years earlier then women and suffer more ill-health in general.

It is well known that health inequalities exist between men and women. Men die on average five years earlier then women and suffer more ill-health in general.

Government statistics show that men?s health suffers as a result of poor access to healthcare services and health-related information. Statistics also show that the north west has very high rates of heart disease, strokes and cancers, particularly affecting the male population.

In an effort to raise the profile of men?s health and encourage men to be more aware of their health needs, Preston PCT established a Men?s Health Project that took healthcare services to community venues such as pubs, social clubs and places of worship, and into the workplace.

Liverpool John Moores University evaluated the project and praised it for reaching different generations and hard-to-reach men, including members of the Asian, African and Caribbean communities, disabled men, homeless men, gay/bisexual men, older men and young boys.

But despite seeing over 2,000 men and having extremely favorable evaluation research carried out with funding from the European Men?s Health Forum, plans to mainstream this work into the NHS did not materialise - due in part to a lack of funding - and the project finished in March 2006.

Ironically the government subsequently announced plans to encourage healthcare professionals to be more innovative in their approach to healthcare and health promotion throughout the community, encouraging them to provide screening and well-being services in a variety of unusual settings. This is exactly the service that the Men?s Health Project and its team of nurses had been providing in Preston for the last three years.

There was great frustration and disappointment over this, and a number of the nursing team decided to take the experience and skills gained from the project and set up a private business venture, embracing the continued advancement of men?s health initiatives using the workplace as a medium for health promotion.

Blue Healthcare was launched in April 2006, offering businesses a range of health initiatives in the workplace including health assessments, health education workshops, health promotion displays and the provision of a confidential nurse-led drop-in service for employees.

The company has set out to establish a service to address all these areas, and the workplace is proving to be the ideal setting to engage with men on health issues.

The three most common causes of sickness absence are back pain, stress and heart disease. Much of this is preventable and Blue Healthcare addresses these key issues through workplace health promotion programmes.

Many men spend a large proportion of their waking hours in the workplace and this has been cited as one reason for their not accessing healthcare services as frequently as women.

Blue Healthcare and other similar projects take services into the workplace and, as a result, are enabling to have a convenient opportunity to learn more about their individual health status.

Louise Dewhurst
Health promotion nurse, Blue Healthcare Ltd

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