Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Live long, prosper, and eat broccoli

What are the top five things men should know if they want to live longer? Groan. How many times have I been asked to write that type of feature in my career as a health journalist, and how many times have I grudgingly produced a list something like this:
  1. Don’t smoke
  2. Exercise regularly 
  3. Reduce your fat intake
  4. Eat lots of roughage
  5. Get married and be happy
That’s the boring version – so boring that it induced groans in my editor too. So there’s a more exciting version:
  1. Read food labels
  2. Believe in something
  3. Look after your teeth
  4. Get a dog
  5. Eat broccoli
No, I’m not proud of that one either, and I refuse to do these kinds of piece any more. Even as I wrote them, I realised there was a problem with combining scientific authority with something the reader would find remotely interesting. But there was also something else niggling at the back of my mind every time I had to produce something like this: men weren’t listening anyway.

Why would you listen? Would I pay attention to a hack telling me to do this but not that, to change my nasty lazy habits and start behaving in the way other people do so that I can live a long life focused on the doctor’s surgery and my own navel?

What if... men don't react well to florets of broccoli being waved in their face? What if doctors, politicians, policy makers, wives are concentrating on the wrong things if we want to help men lead fulfilled and happy lives? What if writing lists and shouting at men to change their ways isn’t going to get anyone anywhere?

And what if expecting them to worry about their health, go for regular testing and "know their numbers" is an approach that does more harm than good?

Let me introduce you to Danger Man’s Doctor.