Beyond Movember

By Chen Ximeng Source:Global Times Published: 2015-11-10 20:23:01

Raising awareness of men’s health

Movember, a global charity campaign focusing on men's health, has not received much support on the Chinese mainland. Photo: IC

Every year, November is a special month for 41-year-old Robin Huang, who works in the financial industry in Hong Kong. On the first day of this month, he shaves off all of his facial hair, and grows a mustache until the last day of the month. Though wearing mustache for a whole month might be a bit inconvenient for him, he thinks it is worthwhile to do so as part of the global Movember event.

Since it was first launched in 2003, Movember, a global men's health charity, calls on men (called Mo Bros) to grow a mustache for a month to raise money for men's health charities. Women (also called Mo Sistas) can also play their part by wearing a fake mustache. The four main health focuses of Movember are prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.

According to the Movember Foundation, it has not received much feedback from the Chinese mainland.

The latest statistics show that there were only 55 registered Chinese mainlanders, and in Hong Kong, there were 1,285 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas registered by the morning of November 10. The level of participation is far from enough to influence the huge population of men in the country.

Doctors interviewed by Metropolitan pointed out that the awareness of men's health in China is still low, and more is needed to do to improve the situation.


Experts say that many Chinese people have a poor awareness of men's health, and advise that they get regular health examinations, and live a healthy lifestyle without smoking, drinking or eating unhealthy food. Photos: IC, Li Hao/GT

Movember not catching on

Huang said as far as he knows, in foreign countries, employers will call on their employees to join in the event. Wanting to make more Chinese mainlanders to join in and raise their awareness of men's health, he posted an article about Movember on an app called Veg Street.

Since the app attracts lots of people who eat a vegetarian diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle, he thought he would get lots of followers. However, not much feedback was received.

Some people who read the article contacted him to ask more about Movember, but few have the guts to try it.

"In fact, there is not much of a culture of wearing mustaches for most Chinese men, but this is not the main obstacle for people to participate because if you do not wear mustache, you could even wear fake one like Mo Sistas," said Huang.

"I think besides the fact that there is no official launch of the event in Chinese mainland, a major reason that it did not receive much feedback is that the culture of being open with men's health problems is still quite lacking here."

Huang said due to lack of attention to health, many of his colleagues or friends have high blood pressure or other illnesses even though they are only in their 30s or 40s.

Zhang Lei (pseudonym), a 32-year-old project manager in an IT company, underwent a difficult time with his health two years ago. Almost every day, he felt very tired, became angry easily, and could not sleep well.

Zhang recalled that at the beginning, he did not think it was a very big problem. But things did not get better. His wife then persuaded him to go to the hospital.

Zhang said it is very hard to share with others his concern over his health problem. "If I have any problems, I will not let others know except for my family because I will feel embarrassed."

Zhang did not take part in Movember as he did not know there is such an event in Chinese mainland. His friends and colleagues also did not know about it, he said.

"If there are many Chinese participating, I may know it and join in. I think some celebrities or public figures should first do it as an example so that it could have a greater influence."

National Men's Health Awareness Day

Wang Bin, an andrologist at Dongzhimen Hospital, said he has met many male patients who only go to the hospital under pressure from their family members.

"Compared with Western countries, Chinese men have a poorer consciousness and understanding of their own health," said Wang.

"The consultation rate of those who suffer from andrological diseases is relatively low. A very popular idea among Chinese men is that they are strong when they are young, so they tend to endure it when illness comes."

There is a trend of young and middle-aged men getting lymph cancer, and the death rate is increasing, Ding Jiahua, director of the department of hematology at Zhongda Hospital affiliated with Southeast University in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, was quoted as saying by the Jinling Evening News in August. 

Zhang Weijia, 32, a software designer from Mianyang, Sichuan Province, was diagnosed with terminal stage lymph cancer two years ago.

Before he got cancer, he did not pay much attention to men's health issues, including the annual Men's Health Awareness Day which falls on October 28.

Many people do not know Men's Health Awareness Day.

The government and medical associations pay more attention to men's sexual health, such as prostate disease, said Zhang Weijia, adding that more diseases, such as lymph cancer, should be put on the agenda for discussion and communication.

Guo Jun, an andrologist at Xiyuan Hospital, said that since Men's Health Awareness Day was launched 16 years ago, the theme has not changed much, with a focus on men's sexual health while ignoring other diverse aspects of men's health, including mental health and lymph cancer. These ailments are also very common and have a high morbidity rate in men. "Besides, it only lasts for one day. After it, all the campaigns and education are just like a wind, gone without leaving much impression. It is more a formality than practical."

Getting moving

Zhang Lei has been concerned about himself after being diagnosed as at risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. "Many people begin to realize that health is very important only after they are attacked by illness, but this is not the right approach," said Zhang Lei, who hopes more men, especially celebrities, would stand up and share their stories about their illness and recovery, combined with commentary from specialists.

He hopes this could help form a culture of being open to all kinds of men's illnesses. "Like Angelina Jolie, who underwent a double mastectomy in 2013, which focused public attention on breast cancer."

"A Men's Health Awareness Day is far from enough for improving people's concern over men's health. The campaigns and efforts should be done at ordinary times," said Wang, who is also cofounder of "Qihuang Andrology," an online platform that collects national patients and specialists who are concerned about men's health.

Wang said the platform plans to launch a "Blue Handkerchief" event in the near future focused on men's health, as a counterpart to the "Pink Ribbon" campaign that focuses on breast cancer.

"Our tentative plan is to launch it every October, for a whole month. Every year, there will be a different theme to focus on, such as testicular cancer. Some celebrities will be invited as the spokespeople, and specialists will also be involved in the educational campaigns." 

Huang said authorities in China could take the example of Movember to launch events which could really get everyone involved.

"The month of Movember allows men to engage in their health in a way that is fun. It allows them to share and hear other people's stories, gives them confidence and let them know how to take action if needed," said Bella Hinde, spokesperson with the Movember Foundation.

 Hinde added that from their own research, the number of men talking about their health and visiting a doctor increases worldwide during the month of Movember.

Zhang Lei said he hopes Movember will launch in Chinese mainland. "Then I will participate and also call on others to, as a way to raise the awareness to men's health."

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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