Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
The Canadian male is an odd creature with a meticulous — sometimes compulsive — obsession with making sure everything is working at tip-top shape. He sharpens his skate blades to a fine edge, scrapes his barbecue grill smooth, fiddles for hours with the lawn mower and polishes that childhood hockey trophy on the shelf beside his perfectly-stocked man-cave bar. But when it comes to caring for his most valuable and vulnerable machine — his body — man's dedication wanes considerably.
We're not ones to talk — we also bring our cars in for tune-ups more than we bring ourselves in for check-ups. But in this month of "Movember," when men across Canada dedicate unprecedented focus to the physics of facial hair, it's a good time to consider what it would take to direct that kind of attention to our own health.
Countless studies validate the anecdotal assertions of women everywhere that men are less likely to seek preventive health care, less likely to shift toward healthier behaviours and more likely to brush off health concerns until they're unavoidably uncomfortable. A 2011 survey found that only 40 per cent of Canadian men go for regular check-ups, and 25 per cent said they'd rather clean the bathroom than see the doctor!
But as much as we men hate asking for help, our health could really use it. Well over half of Canadian men are overweight or obese, and 44 per cent of us are not even moderately active according to Statistics Canada. One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer (yet few will get the easy and painless preventive exam to catch it early), one in 10 have symptoms of mental health disorders or substance dependencies and about one in five are prediabetic, which contributes to (among other things) the fact that almost half of Canadian men over 40 suffer from a certain body-part dysfunction that most of us can't even say aloud.
The common reasons for ignoring our health include embarrassment, denial and a sense of immunity, difficulty relinquishing control, and not having time in our busy schedules. Maybe doctors' offices should open on Saturday nights and get big screen TVs and NHL packages.
Spousal coaxing has long been the most effective strategy to get men exercising, eating better—and to the doctor. But what are the best arguments, incentives and tricks to nudge us in the right direction?
This week's question: How can we convince the men in our lives to take their health more seriously?
David Long, professor of sociology at The King's University in Edmonton
"Cultivate health mentoring relations between older and younger males. Fathers can develop health 'rites of passage' with their sons, such as going to the doctor for their first visit."
John Oliffe, professor of nursing at the University of British Columbia
"Men aspire to be there for their buddies. Visible male help can provide permission for men to talk openly about, convince and coach each other to look after their health."
Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Med School for the Public on YouTube
"Make it easy to do the right thing, and make your messaging hilarious."
Have your say in the comments section.