On 26 April, Health First Europe attended a lunch debate on men’s health in Europe organised by the Premier League Network at the European Parliament. The European Commission recently launched a major report entitled “The State of Men’s Health in Europe” which identified a number of very important issues about men’s health – with significant implications for health, social care and the economy – in society. Chaired by MEP Linda McAvan (S&D, UK), the event called for increasing knowledge about men’s health issues with the support of the European Commission, the European Parliament, academics and other stakeholders such as football clubs.

Regarding the current situation of men’s health, MEP Linda McAvan remarked that men in the United Kingdom are at a far greater risk than women of developing, and dying from, chronic diseases. She remarked that the situation is particularly alarming in the UK and that adequate measures must be taken to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases in men.

The Principal Adviser at the Directorate General for Health and Consumers, Isabel de la Mata, highlighted that knowledge exists regarding the differing behaviours of men about their health. Showing important differences in terms of interest in health between women and men, Ms. de la Mata suggested that the gender equity aspect has to be improved. She discussed how many men do not go to doctor because they are unsure of know how to deal with the healthcare system. Ms. De la Mata also declared that this is why Europe’s men need their own health strategy.  She underlined that greater attention on social conditions and economic circumstances could prevent many of the male deaths currently caused by chronic diseases.

Professor Alan White, Leeds Metropolitan University and lead author of the European Commission Report “The State of Men’s Health in Europe“, argued two main points regarding the current situation for men: 1) a high level of morbidity in men is preventable by better addressing problems through concrete actions; and 2) the necessity of improving the physical and mental health of men to ensure the economic and social well – being of the entire European Community.  Professor White explained that various factors can explain men’s health problems including lifestyle issues and choices, social determinants of health, socialization and concepts of “maleness” including risk-taking, usage of and access to services, bio-physiological issues and the attitude of health care professionals.

Representing around 36 experts across Europe including working groups, managing groups and abroad reference groups, the Premier League Network works on a broad range of health conditions such as obesity, cancer, etc. This Network aims to develop projects with both the cooperation and involvement of men to integrate them in diverse activities said Simon Morgan, Head of Community Development Premier League and former Captain of Fulham Football Club. For him, “the power of football allows changes to come true“. Mr. Morgan discussed  how a football club can help men, through sport, to learn about prevention of disease and implement new social models.

Participants agreed that it is key to involve men as much as possible in their own health strategy. Policymakers and society in general have to encourage young males struggling with social and economic health for men, exist in schools and the workplace.