While there have been significant advances in overall human health in the past century, men’s health in Asia is still a subject of great concern for health care providers in the region. During the annual Urological Association of Asia (UAA) Lecture Monday morning, Hui-Meng Tan, MD, provided an update on men’s health in Asia.
“In 2001, the World Health Organization advocated and adopted mainstreaming gender equity in health globally, stating that in order to achieve the highest standards of health, health policy must recognize that women and men are biologically different and have different gender roles, different needs, obstacles and opportunities with respect to health care and well-being,” said Dr. Tan, adjunct professor of Urology at the University of Malaya in Malaysia.
Fifteen years later, Dr. Tan said the health of men in Asia, as well as much of the rest of the world, is “deplorable,” noting that men continue to experience lower life expectancy and suffer higher premature mortality compared to women, especially in the 50 to 64-year age group.
“Studies continue to show that men visit their physicians and utilize preventive services much less frequently than women and generally pay less attention to their bodies and their health,” Dr. Tan said.
Dr. Tan presented life expectancy data for the 49 countries that comprise the Asian continent. The Asian country with the highest male life expectancy is Qatar at 77 years. Qatar is also the only country in Asia where the life expectancy for men is greater than women.
“The worst life expectancy is Afghanistan, where there is a staggering difference of 24 years between life expectancies for men as opposed to women,” said Dr. Tan, noting that the life expectancy for men is 59 years. “That is remarkable when you compare it to Europe, where the greatest difference in life expectancy is 12 years. Even in rich Asian countries like Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, the life expectancy for men is still significantly shorter than women, indicating that wealth of the country is not a factor.”
Dr. Tan said that other Asian countries can look to Japan as an example of the continent’s best overall men’s health, which he attributed to the country’s emphasis on preventive care and attention to their aging population.
“In Japan, men live 71 to 72 years with little disability, only about four years less than women,” he said. “Among Asian countries, Japan has the best health parameters because of their diet and well prescribed national preventive health care. Japanese octogenarians are the fittest in the world — they scale Mt. Everest and participate in marathons.”
Dr. Tan urged urologists to play a larger role in closing the worldwide health gender gap, and specifically in improving men’s health in Asia.
“Urologists are considered as the most trusted and best physicians to help men in Asia,” he said. “Men in Asia love to see their urologists because they are experts in men specific illnesses, especially sexual medicine and prostatic diseases.”