The importance of engaging young men to take care of their health and wellbeing

This week is International Men’s Health Week, and as a General Practice Nurse (GPN) I have found that the young male population can sometimes be a hard to reach group.

I certainly found this to be the case in my practice, Castleton Health Centre in Rochdale, where a recent small audit I undertook showed that female patients are much more comfortable and willing to engage with their GP, for reasons such as contraception, cervical cytology and pregnancy. Young men on the other hand, were the lowest cohort of patients to visit the practice.

To tackle this, I started a new project to hold regular “Young Men’s Health Clinics”, in an attempt to engage young males aged between 18 – 24 years old and encourage them to take ownership of their own health and wellbeing. I myself have two sons in this age group, so I fully understand the need for them to engage with their own health and wellbeing, as well as the importance of normalising talking about health concerns and asking for help.

I feel extremely passionate that proactive prevention and early intervention in this hard to reach age group is key to improving health and reducing illness and disease, which then essentially removes some of the demand on GP appointments.

We held our first clinic earlier this month on the 1 June 2021, which ran smoothly with an 80% turnout. As a result of that clinic we identified several health issues, particularly surrounding mental health, low mood, depression and anxiety. In turn, patients expressed that these feelings have triggered other negative coping mechanisms such as smoking, binge drinking, overeating and lack of exercise. After just one clinic, the importance of interacting with this age group is clear. We need to keep encouraging more conversations like this to catch the early onset of  long term conditions such as CVD, diabetes, liver disease and COPD as well as looking after men’s mental health.

There are plans to host another Young Men’s Health Day later in the year once restrictions have been lifted. The aspiration is to have a festival themed, relaxed open day on a weekend, bringing together the local community and multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) to help promote Men’s Health.

On reflection, primary care needs to be more forward thinking when it comes to this cohort of young men and be prepared to listen in alternative ways, offering a wider opportunity for connection by utilising social media platforms. I understand this is a challenge, but it will be more than worth it in the long run, for patients and practices alike. I have a clear vision for my GP practice, and I am massively enthusiastic about this cause, so will continue to keep pushing for young men’s health and I hope others will do the same.

For more information about International Men’s Health Week, visit the Men’s Health Forum website.

Claire Lomax

Caroline is a General Practice Nurse, working at Castleton Health Centre in Rochdale, Lancashire.

She is currently in the process of completing a leadership programme with GP excellence with the NHS England and NHS Improvement CARE (Connected, Authentic, Resilient, Empowered) Leadership and Resilience Programme, as well as undertaking a Quality Improvement Project to evolve and improve population health.