Men’s health has generally been overlooked in the self-care field, especially from a global perspective. A new report from Global Action on Men’s Health, Who Self-Cares Wins: A global perspective on men and self-care, aims to fill that gap.
The report busts the myth that men are invariably self-destructive risk-takers – globally, most men do enough physical activity to benefit their health and do not smoke or drink alcohol – but sets out very clearly where there is room for improvement. Men’s knowledge and health literacy, mental wellbeing, self-awareness and agency, diet, risk avoidance and personal hygiene standards are shown to be far from optimal. Moreover, men often do not make effective use of health services and products and, while they are generally more physically active than women, many are too sedentary.
The barriers to improving men’s self-care include male gender norms, a lack of policy focus on men, and health services that have been designed without men in mind. However, recent developments – including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the adoption of a regional men’s health strategy by WHO Europe, the national men’s health policies in Australia, Brazil and Ireland, and an expanding evidence base about how to engage men effectively in health – provide a new opportunity to improve men’s self-care.
Who Self-Cares Wins argues that action on a multi-layered and systems-wide basis is needed to improve men’s self-care effectively. The necessary steps include: tougher tobacco, alcohol and sugar control measures; health policies that recognise the needs of men; improving men’s health literacy; making health services more accessible to men; better training in men’s health for health and related professionals; and taking full account of male gender norms in policy and service delivery.