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Thrive4Life’s marketing manager Benjamin Klein interviews Professor Roger Kirby, a leading prostate surgeon and President of the Royal Society of Medicine, on the meaning of men’s health in the current environment and the key messages that men need to take home this Movember.

It’s that time of the year again – a time when we witness the surreptitious sprouting of moustaches in homes and offices across the country. While Movember is a prized fashion statement for some, for businesses and society at large it is an opportunity to make meaningful change.

In 2019, the UK economy lost around £92 billion through ill-health related absence and presenteeism in the workplace, according to data from Vitality.

This figure is significantly affected by men, as men tend to be less proactive and willing to seek help with their mental and physical health, often leading to individuals suffering prolonged and more severe illness, and businesses dealing with the related resourcing issues including productivity and cost.

To help businesses and employees with developing a more proactive culture around men’s health and preventing unnecessary delays in seeking support when this is needed, Thrive4Life is hosting a livestreamed Movember Men’s Health Chat Show on Tuesday 23rd November 17:30-18:30 with two leading men’s health experts, Professor Roger Kirby and Peter Baker. The two will be addressing key men’s health issues with insights on when to seek help, crucial warning signs to look out for, and how to create a more positive culture around men’s mental and physical health.

Professor Roger Kirby, President of the Royal Society of Medicine and leading Prostate Surgeon.

This week, Thrive4Life’s marketing manager Benjamin Klein had the chance to interview Professor Roger Kirby ahead of the event. Professor Kirby is the current President of the Royal Society of Medicine and is a leading prostate surgeon with over 40 years of experience in the area of men’s health. He has published extensively on men’s health topics and in 2016 received the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons’ Clement Price Thomas Award for services to surgery.

A portion of this exclusive interview is featured below:

Benjamin Klein
Benjamin: Roger, you have over 40 years of experience as a prostate surgeon working in the NHS and private practice. As an academic, you have also published over 350 peer-reviewed scientific publications and written 68 books on prostate disease and men’s health. How has this vast experience in your field shaped your current perspective on men’s health?
Roger Kirby
Roger: My experience in diagnosis and treatment has broadened my perspective on men’s health far beyond prostate disease. A major problem facing men in their everyday lives, I have found, is the difficulty they often have talking about their problems. Men find it difficult to share information with each other, more so than women.

They are also extremely fearful of the side-effects associated with treatment for cancers, such as risk of incontinence, so they prefer to shut it out. This tendency for men to bottle things up impacts on other health and wellbeing issues as well. There are key lessons to be learnt about looking after men that come from this experience.

Benjamin Klein
Benjamin: With this perspective of yours in mind, what does men’s health mean to you at the current moment?
Roger Kirby
Roger: We are in an especially unique time and place. The pandemic has worsened many of the things I just pointed out. COVID-19 has led to people, and men especially, being even more isolated than they may have already been. Men have been unable to gather at work and communicate with one another, meaning there has been an absence of general support.

Paranoia about health in general has also increased. One only has to think of the images in the media of men on ventilators. COVID-19 has affected men far more than women. Around 70% of hospitalised patients who have died are men. Men furthermore have tended not to face up to their fears. Many prefer not to talk about their fear of COVID-19. This only compounds the problem and makes the paranoia worse. There is also the added stress of heightened financial insecurity, which has tended to affect men uniquely owing to the role that is frequently placed on them as breadwinners.

Benjamin Klein
Benjamin: What do you regard as the greatest challenge for men’s health right now?
Roger Kirby
Roger: Education is a major challenge. Not just about diseases, but also crucial lifestyle factors such as weight reduction, exercise, diet, cholesterol and blood pressure. All of these things impact human health. We need to educate people to live healthier, happier, longer lives by addressing the health issues that place them at risk, and empower people to take preventative steps by keeping fit, maintaining a healthy diet, and treating conditions they develop properly and efficiently. These include heart attacks, strokes and cancers. Men often respond to symptoms suggestive of cancer (such as blood in the motions) later than women, with resultant delay in diagnosis. They need to be more proactive in this respect.

Another major challenge for men’s health concerns violence. Aggression, injury at work, road accidents, and fights – these things tend to affect men far more than women. More men than women die in traffic accidents, with much of this connected to drinking and driving. We need to address this culture of damaging behaviour. Suicide rates are far higher in men than in women, and this is strongly connected to the tendency of men to bottle things up and resort to self-harm rather than communicate. It is something we urgently need to address.

Benjamin Klein
Benjamin: And how can we improve education about men’s health?
Roger Kirby
Roger: Well, through the event I am partaking in with Peter Baker, for starters [laughs]. But besides that, the media has a role to play – talks, magazines, newspapers and social media. It is about changing men’s attitudes towards their health gradually and incrementally. We need to get men to reassess their priorities. What is most important? The pub, your local sports match, or your health? Health should be the priority, but it rarely is.
Benjamin Klein
Benjamin: And lastly, what key message would you like to send to men this Movember?
Roger Kirby
Roger: Look after yourself. Take simple steps to look after your health. Your health, after all, impacts everyone around you. If you want to live a longer and healthier life, then follow simple rules – maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and look after your mental health.
Benjamin Klein
Benjamin: Thank you for your time, Roger!
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