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Dr Peters et al's call for action to reduce the global burden of disease more efficiently in women and men is very well made.
Their article focuses on women's health but many similar points could be made about men's. WHO data shows that, globally in 2012, 52% of all deaths from NCDs were male. Males were more likely than females to die prematurely (under 70 years) from NCDs in almost every country. The major risk factors for NCDs include unhealthy diets, tobacco use and the harmful use of alcohol and men do worse than women in respect of all of these. Data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 shows that, in that year, 55% of deaths from dietary risk factors were male as were 72% of deaths from tobacco smoking and 65% of deaths from alcohol.
Life expectancy data also highlights the health burden borne by men. Globally, male life expectancy at birth, at 68 years, lags five years behind female life expectancy and the global ‘gap’ is predicted to increase over the next 15 years: by 2030, male life expectancy could well be seven years shorter than female life expectancy.
Global as well as the almost all national health policies have largely ignored men. The UN’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-30) overlooks boys and world leaders at the 2016 G7 Ise-Shima Summit in Japan made important commitments to improving women’s health but did not mention men.
There should not be a competition between the advocates of men's health and those of women's health to demonstrate which sex is worse off or to grab resources from each other. This must not be a zero sum game. We need action, gendered as and when appropriate, to improve the health of both sexes. Without such an approach, the SDG targets, amongst others, will be far harder to achieve.