The hairiest month of the year is finally here!
Gender is one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of health and life expectancy. For men, this is not good news. On average, across the world, men die six years earlier than women.
Moreover, poor mental health affects men more than women: three quarters of suicides are by men. The World Health Organisation estimates that 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year. That's one every minute.
The impact of prostate and testicular cancer on lives is substantial, with prostate cancer being the second most common cancer in men worldwide and the number of cases is expected to almost double to 1.7 million cases by 2030.
This is why I mo.
During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men's faces (supported by their Mo Sistas (female supporters)) in Australia and around the world.
There is a serious side to the Mo growing. The money raised goes to support and raise vital funds and awareness for men's health. In 2014, Mo Bros and Mo Sistas from across Australia helped raise $21.7 Million for the Movember Foundation. $105.1 million was raised worldwide in 21 countries.
The focus for funding, as it was in previous years, is for prostate and testicular cancer research along with mental health awareness campaigns. Added to the strategy in 2015, physical inactivity is the Movember Foundation's newest focus area.
They are committed to raising awareness on the dangers of physical inactivity and investing in initiatives that encourage physical activity. Physical inactivity is a big deal. It's the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, causing 3.2 million deaths globally per year.
I am overwhelmed each year by the donations and the jibes I get from my fellow staff members and the students I teach. The question I am often asked is, 'Why?' Simply, men need to chat. They need to have conversations about their health and well-being. It is about educating and empowering men when it comes to their health. The casual discussion about moustache growth can easily and effectively turn into a conversation about men's health.
A walking billboard
Each Movember I literally become a walking and talking billboard for men's health. It creates authentic conversations, and the literature Movember sends to me in support communicates the health messages in a way that is meaningful to men, their family and their peers.
On a personal level, it gets me to 'take a good, hard look at myself' and I become more engaged with my own health. I think about the areas of my physical, social and emotional health that need preventative action. According to Movember research, Movember participants spend more time thinking about improving their health, visiting a doctor or discussing their health with others.
Evidence clearly highlights that,
... there's a long way to go until men achieve the optimum level of health. Progress is being made but the issue of tackling the inequality between men and women's health is a complex one and will take time. However, a unanimously agreed upon point is that better educating men on the risks they face and empowering them with the information and know-how to proactively look after their health, is a vital piece of the puzzle.
I am not expecting to raise thousands of dollars. My first donation this year came from a student of mine! But I appreciate the chance to raise the issues, encourage the conversations and weather the storm of ridicule and giggles. I appreciate the chance to talk to the men I work with about their health.
To discuss with other men on staff and with students in my school about the joys and struggles of marriage and raising kids allows me to realise I am not alone. This great cause brings to the forefront of my mind, for one month every year, the fact I am not bulletproof.
Movember fights the good fight. It is changing the face of MY health. It is having an impact.
Why not encourage the men in your life to head to the doctor and let this year be the start of their annual check up? Why not get MOving and spend a little time each day physically active?
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html