Men's health has become the hot topic over the past year, with numerous publications and almost constant discussion in the media generally.
The literature is generally divided between target audiences of men in society or the professions. It ranges from excellent to stolid reiteration of well-established myths and old statistics. Men's Health: perspectives, diversity and paradox is not a book to curl up in bed with, especially if you are one of the unfortunate owners of the Y chromosome. Heavy, at times turgid, text is broken up with statistics and figures often hopelessly dated. Few are younger than nine years old.
This may, however, reflect just how difficult it is to obtain crucial information on men's health, not least from the government. Similarly, there are large sections quoted verbatim from government papers and other research work. The impression is that most of it could be said in a much more concise way.
According to the press release, the book is relevant to just about every facet of medicine: public health, nursing, social services, politics and much else. Being all things to all men can produce a lack of direction leaving the reader confused. There is an uncomfortable jumbling together of specific male conditions with policy decisions. I seriously doubt the relevance the book has for general practice and suspect most GPs would be better off reading Tom O'Dowd's Men's Health in General Practice.
Claiming to give an 'international perspective', it only deals in any depth with Australia. This distorts the discussion as Australia is one of the few countries to have taken men's health seriously.
Even so, the discussions on many aspects of men's health within the UK are informative and wide ranging. There is detailed examination of sex versus gender as a determinant of male health and behaviour. It is also an invaluable source of information on active groups.
Generally, the tone is complimentary, emphasising the value of work done by these groups. Unfortunately, the UK Men's Health Forum is singled out for a particularly vitriolic attack - with a side swipe at the Royal College of Nursing for good measure. The forum 'speaks to one audience only - nursing'.
The fact that the forum has produced influential briefing papers on inequalities, suicide and public health, along with major campaigns on male heart disease and suicide, in collaboration with organisations such as the Doctor Patient Partnership and the Samaritans, is ignored by the authors, who consider the forum a 'single issue' body, specifically sexual health.
However, there is much to recommend the book to those interested in men's health at the public health level.
Dr Ian Banks, GP and chair of the Men's Health Forum.