Researchers investigate gender approach to health self-management support

01 October 2014

Dr Lisa Kidd

Dr Lisa Kidd

Researchers have found that men suffering from long term health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke have different requirements to women for self-management support interventions.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme, a research team led by the University of York and including Glasgow Caledonian University’s Dr Lisa Kidd and Dr Kerri McPherson aimed to establish why men are not using existing self-management programmes and whether there is a need for the NHS to design and deliver these specifically with men in mind.

The team found that men often have specific needs and clear preferences in relation to the way self-management support is delivered in terms of context, content, delivery style, and marketing. For example, self-management support appears to be more attractive to many men if it is seen to offer practical strategies that can be integrated into daily life. There is also some indication in the current evidence that certain types of self-management support may be particularly effective for men in relation to improving overall quality of life.

Around 15 million people in the United Kingdom have a chronic or long term health problem, with men more likely than women to develop the most common and disabling of these types of conditions.

Helping people ‘self-manage’ a long term health condition results in better health for patients, fewer admissions into hospital, and large cost savings for the NHS. As a result, there are various initiatives, support systems and programmes in place throughout the NHS to help people improve their self-management skills. However, research has shown that less than one third of attendees at these types of programmes are male.

By specifically focusing this research on the benefits and shortcomings of self-management programmes for men, the NIHR funded study ‘Self-Man’ established that a gender-specific approach to self-management support could have significant implications for the delivery of such programmes in the future.

As a result of the findings, the project team is now producing a manual in partnership with the Men’s Health Forum which acts as a practical guide for those involved in designing, delivering, or commissioning self-management support services for men. An additional guide for men with long term conditions contains practical information for male service users to help them to better self-manage their conditions. Future research will aim to develop and evaluate male-sensitive approaches and interventions to supporting engagement in self-management.