Increased efforts are on by the Ministry of Health to have more men pay attention to their health.
This development has come about following a recent workshop hosted by the Ministry in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) at the latter’s Dayrell’s Road headquarters.
The workshop, which could be the first of many, saw over 25 health care providers being equipped with the knowledge and skills to identify issues related to men’s health and develop programmes and strategies to encourage the involvement of men in their own health.
Senior Medical Officer (South), Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, in addressing the session, stressed that men could be “a potentially vulnerable group due to [their] under-utilisation of available health services.” Referring to Barbados’ Strategic Plan for Health 2002-2012, she noted that it was documented that 29% of men were overweight, 10% were obese and, while the patient population at the Psychiatric Hospital was approximately 600, 66% were males.
She also acknowledged that with respect to the issue of HIV/AIDS, males continued to predominate with a male to female ratio of 2:1, except in the 15 to 29 age group, where females predominated. This, she emphasised, was attributed to the phenomenon of age mixing, where older men, with more lifetime exposure to HIV, were engaging in sexual intercourse with young girls. The young girls, she noted were more physiologically susceptible to acquiring HIV.
Dr. Ferdinand observed that since life expectancy was greater for women than men, it was important that they be educated towards early access to health care. She identified some of the concerned health areas as injuries, screening for non-communicable diseases, mental health, cancers, especially prostate and colon, sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.
The one-day workshop was also addressed by PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Dr. Gina Watson, who told the gathering that: “We cannot assume that the same strategies for health promotion and health prevention will equally work for both men and women, so our messages and our awareness programmes need to be tailored according to the needs of both genders.”
Acknowledging that strategies and services must be specially designed for the two genders, she said: “Men’s health is a relatively new area of work in public health. Until recently, men’s health needs and expectations have been neglected areas.”
The PAHO/WHO representative, while lauding Barbados for taking the lead on the issue of men’s health in the region, thanked workshop coordinator, Anne Murrell, for also “helping to facilitate the topic of men’s health in the wider Caribbean and the OECS countries.”
“We are certainly looking forward to moving this agenda and experience from Barbados to… our sister islands in the eastern Caribbean,” she said.