It’s Time to ‘Man Up’ about Men’s Health

At last week’s annual SHSMD meeting in Orlando, I joined a group of colleagues at a luncheon discussion table led by Phil Smith of Kansas City-based Prairie Dog. The topic – The Ascent of Man: The Boomer Male is About to be Heard Big Time in Healthcare Marketing – was intriguing, especially in an industry where women make or influence 80% of healthcare expenditures.

So here’s the situation – compared to women, men die younger. They begin to suffer from heart disease and stroke at least a decade earlier than their female counterparts. Are 1½ times more likely to die from heart disease, cancer and chronic respiratory illnesses. Are four times likely to commit suicide and twice as likely to die from alcohol-related deaths. These are diseases that can mostly be detected and treated with success before it’s too late.

What stands in the way? Men’s reluctance to seek medical care. They make 30% fewer trips to the doctor than women, are 38% more likely to neglect cholesterol levels, and overlook – or avoid – screenings for male cancers.

“We’re ‘probe-aphoic,’” said one of the men sitting at our table. Which is another way of saying that attitude matters. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune on Masculinity and Men’s Health cites several research studies that reveal men’s reluctance to seek medical care may have a lot more to do with conforming to masculine ideals of self-control, risk-taking, pain tolerance, competitiveness and independence than we often acknowledge. In fact, in these studies, high masculinity scores correlated with low scores on health behaviors.

The bottom line – to reach men, the messaging has to appeal more to male ideas about controlling fears, providing for family, retaining virility, achieving success and playing harder than to general ideas regarding prevention and good health. Brands such as Viagra and Flomax have certainly brought these issues into the light of day.-

Where there is unmet need, there is marketing opportunity. The bigger challenge for marketers targeting boomer males will be breaking through with a value proposition and brand messaging that gets their attention.

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