OCCASIONALLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why do you only focus on male health?
In a UK context there is no equitable service provision for males to match that currently provided for females. However, to make comparisons with women’s health is to place men’s health needs in an adversarial context, which is unhelpful. We should acknowledge that the comparison is there – but that there are specific reasons for gendered health work and also policy; there’s a sound rationale for one on male health. Despite some advances, including legislation that considers gender and a number of organisations and institutions working to improve male health and raise the profile of male specific diseases and concerns, there remains no government male health policy.
The rationale for a focus on male health is very apparent; in the UK men live on average around four years less than women – and this gap has remained consistent; cardiovascular disease is the largest cause of death of men in the UK, occurs at an earlier age in men and is a cause of premature male death; men are at much greater risk than women from nearly all of the common cancers, with the exception of breast cancer, that occur in both sexes. Men are more likely to work in blue-collar jobs involving industrial processes that have an adverse affect on health. Men are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and use substances than women, more likely to be homeless or in prison. A disproportionate number of young males are killed in transport accidents and young men are consistently the group most at risk of suicide. The burden of suicide is three times greater in men. Men tend to use health services less often than women and present themselves to health services at a later stage, often when their illness has advanced. Services aren’t constructed so that they’re accessible to men; men may want to access preventative health services but they can’t.
Concomitant with this is a debate as to the reasons for men’s poorer health outcomes and service access – whether the root cause is a socially constructed masculinity that inhibits men from engaging with their health and encourages risk-taking behaviours, or whether men’s health is determined by biological, psychological and neurological processes, mediated by culture and social determinants of health. That men are interested in their health, but social, economic and educational factors determine health outcomes, so that we should be looking to makes services more appropriate and accessible to males and create environments that foster health, rather than attempt to challenge and change men’s masculinity.
There is resonance for practitioners in the debate because it influences how we deliver work. Lack of awareness of male health issues – and the debate, is also a factor that can inhibit the delivery of practical work; if health service managers who are not conversant with male health work adhere to simplistic, short-term, generic solutions rather than put structures into place that support and encourage males to use services this creates another barrier to male health improvement. There are a litany of reasons why we should address male health. Organisations and institutions involved in trying to raise the profile of male health understand why there is a need and pitch solutions, research and policy suggestions at a strategic level, but at an operational level, apart from a few examples, little is happening in the UK. A male health policy that considers all aspects of the debate remains a vision and would be a driver of work; however fine words are not enough. Any policy is only as good as the work that is delivered on the ground at operational level.
Why practical work?
The higher profile organisations and institutions involved in male health in the UK have generally had a focus on research, act as policy think tanks, or focus on campaigning on a specific disease or concern. Of course we need work at a policy and strategic level, and campaigns highlight single issues – but this needs to be complemented by practical work across a range of male health concerns. As practitioners with a wealth of experience of developing and delivering interventions and group and one-to-one work with males in many settings, a common theme has been that males often present to health services through ignorance. Not because of any notions of masculinity and coping alone; that’s not to ignore underlying motivations for behaviour, we’d be disingenuous to say that some men don’t ‘behave badly’, but our empirical experience is because they didn’t know. Because no one had told them about signs and symptoms, or what could go wrong, or if they had been told, then it hadn’t been explained to them in a manner that they could readily understand, or by people that they could relate to. That they thought the health problem would clear itself up and that they didn’t have the time to attend a service that didn’t fit in with their hours of work. Males who had a functional view of health – that when something impacted on bodily functioning then they’d get it fixed. We should not lay the blame for this on males but on service construction. Practical work – informative health education and targeted health promotion and social marketing initiatives are vital aspects of getting across this information to males; however, there is no workforce specifically dedicated to this work. We believe that this is a component of male health work that is lacking and needs to be addressed so that practical work is understood and valued, is well resourced, supported and sustainable.
Why have you developed accredited courses in male health?
Mengage’s intention is to develop and support practical work that prevents health crises from occurring. As practitioners we recognise that the training available on work with men is limited; no organisation has provided easily accessible and sustainable core training for practitioners on how to work with males on health improvement that is disseminated and supported on a national basis – and also accredited. Our current focus is on delivery of an accredited training programme that provides a basic understanding of the issues surrounding male health and a complementary programme of practical work. Whilst a university qualification is useful in providing a deeper understanding of male health, we don’t believe that you need a qualification at that level to deliver practical work and make a difference.
We believe that we need a workforce trained to deliver practical work on male health and that workforce is not one that should necessarily sit solely in public service organisations, composed of health and social work professionals, but one that bridges a range of settings and workplaces, working ‘where males are’. Professionals and workers from other organisations have a role to play. Some of those organisations may have health as part of their work remit and are well-placed to deliver practical health work if trained and conversant with male health issues – and in the context of commissioning of any qualified provider, if a case can be presented and criteria met, then income generation can be achieved to enable the work to be delivered by that organisation, whoever they are. The accredited courses may be of particular interest to organisations such as sports clubs, including football and rugby clubs who play a community role and have an interest in health work.
Who can undertake your courses?
Mengage courses are available at cost to any organisation or group with an interest in male health. We can also cater to individuals at our designated AQA centre at Inside Football on set education days providing enough individuals enrol on a course.
Our courses are aimed at professionals and workers who work with males and who may be in a position to impart information as part of health improvement, education or promotion work; these can include but are not limited to:
- Nurses and other clinical staff
- Health improvement/promotion practitioners
- Voluntary services and charitable services staff
- Sports coaches
- Relevant personnel from the armed services
- Relevant personnel from the constabulary and emergency services
- HMP and probation staff
- Youth services including youth offending
- Relevant staff from academic and educational facilities
- Staff from commercial firms and industries.
What is the Level 2 Unit Award in Male Health?
The Level 2 Unit Award in Male Health provides an understanding of work on male health. It is accredited by the AQA Unit Award Scheme and is available to professionals and workers who work with males to improve their health.
It also provides sports-based practitioners with the knowledge and skills to deliver work with young men in schools, colleges and other educational settings using the Mengage Balls Out product (see below for further information).
What is Balls Out ?
Balls Out provides a suite of male health education programmes available to sports-based organisations and associated community programmes who wish to provide health information to younger men in schools, pupil referral units, colleges and voluntary educational settings.
Young men who complete a Balls Out course will be provided with a basic knowledge of male health issues, what can be done, and where to seek help.
Balls Out is an off-the-shelf product that sports organisations can use to implement health work with young men in their locality. It can enable organisations to be commissioned by Public Health commissioners to deliver health work. It is also a product that can be bought in from sports organisations on a one-off basis by educational establishments wishing to cover a health topic.
Sports-based practitioners attached to professional sports organisations who undertake the Level 2 Unit Award in Male Health will be qualified to deliver the Balls Out programme to young men. To ensure and maintain standards we will only licence Balls Out to organisations whose staff undertake the Level 2 training. The training for sports coaches provides a Level 2 award; the sports coach (only) training also covers use of Balls Out and the health issues covered in the Balls Out package licenced to a sports organisation.
Why do you use verification for Balls Out?
An issue we recognise from our own experience of health work is that it is constantly changing. Practitioners need to be apprised of developments in health education and the areas of health they are delivering in to ensure that work remains factual and up-to-date and to ensure that the quality of the programme remains consistent. We provide a verifier who will visit organisations delivering the Balls Out programme to ensure the programme is delivered to specification, and to provide any further support necessary.
What other work do you do?
Unit Award in Mentoring Boys and Young Men. This is an award accredited at Level 2. Education is one of the social determinants of health; a poor education can affect health outcomes – boys outnumber girls as low educational achievers. Mentoring offers an evidence-based approach for improving academic performance and addressing problematic behaviours. The course considers the role and tasks of the mentor and a strengths-based approach to mentoring that focuses on the potential of boys and young men rather than a deficit masculinity approach. The course is suitable for sports coaches, teaching assistants, community workers – anyone with an interest in mentoring work with boys and young men.
Mentalking. This product provides an informal talk or learning session on male health, aimed at adult men and health topics that concern them. It is suitable for use in a wide variety of settings including delivery to professionals, services and commercial organisations, or in community settings including prostate support groups, men’s sheds, sports clubs, and pubs. Anywhere that men are who want to find out more about their health and what they can do about it!
Healthy Male Prisoners. Mengage offers two Healthy Male Prisoners training courses on men’s health; one for HMP staff and one for prisoners. This course has been successfully piloted in a UK prison environment working with both staff and prisoners. The prisoners course is particularly suitable for prisoners interested in becoming health trainers. Please contact us if you require further information.
The Male Suicide Prevention Workshop: In Practice provides professionals and others involved in work with men on this concern with a workshop exploring men’s motivations for suicide and the complex factors involved; consideration of processes that men experience prior to a suicide attempt; and practical, gender-sensitive, community-based interventions that may prevent a suicide occurring. Based on research and proven practical work from both national and international perspectives, the workshop offers innovative approaches to suicide prevention work that organisations can implement with men in their locale.
‘The Boy Problem’: Raising boys achievement – what can schools do? is a workshop aimed at teachers, teaching assistants and other professionals with an interest in improving boys level of educational attainment. The workshop considers boys engagement with education and offers approaches to address this both in the classroom and outside of school, promoting a whole-school approach to an issue that can affect prospects across the lifespan.
We can also design, develop and deliver bespoke work on male health. Contact us with your requirements.
Do you undertake conferences, workshops and one-off events?
Yes we do. Please contact us regarding your requirements.
Do you undertake research or consultancy work?
Yes we do; the focus of research must involve preventative health work or concern associated themes (e.g. work with young fathers, mentoring work with boys and young men). We also undertake consultancy work. Please contact us regarding your requirements.
Do you supply resources for work with males?
We can supply or recommend resources to accompany our Balls Out programme. We intend to develop specific, targeted resources in future.
Are you DBS checked and do you have public liability and professional indemnity insurance?
Yes, our staff are DBS checked and have public liability and professional indemnity insurance.
Where do you work?
We are UK-based, so work can be delivered anywhere in the UK; within reason we will also consider work on an international basis. Our courses and products may be adapted to provide health information to people working with males in other countries. We are also considering distance educating practitioners about male health; technology has opened up many more avenues to provide people with knowledge and skills, so we should consider all possibilities. If we really want to improve male health it’s about getting the information out there and that doesn’t necessarily have to be via university-based qualifications. If you consider the Australian men’s sheds movement, it grew as an organic movement without statutory priming or research. Communities anywhere can improve health with the right structures in place; imparting knowledge is part of the process.