According to independent body the Men's Health Forum, too many men suffer unnecessary poor health and die too young from preventable causes.

Whereas women are renowned for their unembarrassed attitude towards discussing health matters and accessing care, we live in a culture that encourages a stiff upper lip in relation to men's health. This contributes to prolonged illness and unnecessary suffering.

Removing the stigma attached to discussing male health issues and taking positive steps to make healthcare and health information more accessible to the average man is essential. But how can we change something that is so deeply rooted in our society and culture?

I believe providing greater access to healthcare and advice is crucial and that technology has a role to play in this process. Through initiatives such as NHS Direct, health information is only a telephone call or mouse click away.

A reluctant patient

Men get a raw deal when it comes to their health. On average, men die four years earlier than women. Sixteen per cent of men - compared with 6 per cent of women - die when they are of working age. This reflects the fact that men develop a range of serious diseases earlier than women - 10-15 years earlier in the case of coronary heart disease, for example.

Men also typically take more risks with their health: they drink more heavily than women, are more likely to smoke and are less likely to protect their skin from the sun. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that men of working age visit GPs less often than women and tend to present later in the course of an illness than women.

One reason men do not use primary care services to their advantage is because doing so can conflict with workplace commitments. An increase in out-of-hours care is part of the solution to this problem. In addition, pharmacists are playing an increasing role in patient consultation, which can improve access.

Barriers to uptake of healthcare services are also being broken down in the workplace. A new approach to tackling men's health in the workplace is evolving with a focus on lifestyle and wellness. It is no longer a matter of considering health and safety alone, but of improving productivity and reducing absenteeism through positive health promotion programmes.

Health technology

Alongside wider access to face-to-face consultation, telehealth can play a significant role in addressing men's health issues. NHS Direct, NHS Direct Wales and NHS24 in Scotland offer information and telephone triage across the UK.

What sets telehealth apart from its predecessor "telemedicine" is the widening of focus from a reactive curative tool to encompass preventive, informational and curative aspects.

One of the applications telehealth has been tailored to tackle is providing support and outreach to patients with long-term conditions. Additional tools, such as devices that allow patients to monitor their health and send information to their clinician, can allow people to be monitored in their own home, providing a greater level of comfort and security.

The principle behind this approach is that by identifying people's needs and proactively reaching out to them through a variety of technologies, primary care can be taken to the patient in the comfort of their own homes.

Moving forward

While changing perceptions and attitudes towards men's health is a long-term objective, there are ways of addressing men's health issues in the short term.

Improving access to care is a fundamental element of the solution and technology can be used to achieve this.

Integrating devices such as mobile phones and digital televisions into telehealth can provide unrestricted access to healthcare advice and professionals. I envisage telehealth becoming an integral part of the mechanism to deliver men's health.

Men's Health Week runs from 9-15 June. For more information, visit www.menshealthforum.org.uk