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How We Can Change Health Attitudes and Outcomes in Canadian Men

Dr. Larry Goldenberg

Professor, Department of Urologic Sciences, UBC

The Canadian Men’s Health Foundation was founded with the goal of addressing preventative health issues in men and educating effectively.

“The stereotypical man has been the guy who says, ‘I can’t get sick. I’m fine. I’m invincible,’ and that’s a problem,” says Dr. Larry Goldenberg, Professor, Department of Urologic Sciences, UBC. Dr. Goldenberg’s significant contribution to prostate cancer research and treatment has earned him international recognition and an appointment to the Order of Canada.  

“Life expectancy in men has always trailed women by at least four years. Men die more often of cardiac disease and diabetes. Out of the 35 cancers, 32 out of the 35 are more common in men,” says Dr. Goldenberg. Not finding a sufficient explanation as to why this was happening, he started to investigate: “What are the differences between men and women? What are we missing?” 

Addressing preventative health issues

Through his research, Dr. Goldenberg realized, “From a family health point of view, if you think about a puzzle, we have women’s health and children’s health, which are both very important. But a big missing piece of the puzzle was men’s health. Why aren’t we paying more attention to addressing preventative health care issues for men? We should be making men aware that they’re not invincible and that 70 per cent of chronic illnesses when you get older can be prevented by earlier lifestyle changes, like more exercise and a better diet.” 

So Dr. Goldenberg started the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF) to do just that. As a national non-profit organization, the CMHF provides men and their families with information, tools, and encouragement to live healthier lives. 

Encouraging men to get healthier

Pivotal to the CMHF’s success was finding a way to talk to men so they would listen. “If I tell a 30-year-old man that he should stop smoking because when he’s 50 or 60, he’s going to have a risk of lung cancer or bladder cancer, he’ll look at me and say, ‘I don’t care what’s going to happen 30 years from now.’ But if I tell him that if he keeps smoking, he’s going to lose his erections in five years, let me tell you, I have his attention,” says Dr. Goldenberg.

He shares some simple tips that the CMHF uses to encourage men to get healthier. “You don’t have to change everything,” he says. “Start by getting off the bus a block earlier, walking to work, taking the stairs, and ordering half fries and half salad. Make small changes because we can all adapt to small changes. Eventually, these small changes become behavioural changes that are more permanent.” 

For more information and a complete list of resources available for men and their families, visit the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation website and tune in to the Don’t Change Much Podcast

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