Our study

Background

Around 15 million people in the United Kingdom have a chronic or long term health problem – a condition that cannot currently be cured but can be managed through medication or changes in lifestyle. At any given age, men are more likely than women to develop the most common and disabling of these types of conditions, for example, diabetes, stroke, lung conditions or heart disease.

These differences between men and women are not simply the result of genetic differences or something that cannot be changed. A growing amount of research is showing that the pressure to act in a ‘masculine’ way leads many men to be worse than women at accessing available health services and less effective at looking after their health overall.

Self-Management

There is very good evidence that 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. Yet, although we know men are worse than women at managing their health and attending health services, we know little about whether there are differences in how men and women respond to services that help people improve their self-management skills and, if there is, the types of services that are the most effective, cost-effective, accessible and acceptable for helping men manage their condition. As a result, self-management support services that are currently offered to people with a long term health problem do not take into account how self-management experiences, goals, and needs may differ between men and women, despite this being a legal requirement for all NHS organizations.

The aims of our study

Much of the existing research that has been carried out on self-management support services has been drawn together into several reviews which aim to offer a summary of the benefits and shortcomings of these types of programmes. Although many high quality reviews now exist, it is difficult for practitioners, service planners and policy makers to determine ‘what works best for whom’ because none of these existing reviews have specifically focused on the benefits and shortcomings of self-management programmes for men.

The aims of our project are therefore to:

  • identify studies from existing reviews in this area (by searching 3 comprehensive databases of independent high quality reviews) to investigate whether self-management programmes, or aspects of these programmes, are beneficial, cost-effective, accessible and acceptable for men with a long term health condition; and,
  • identify qualitative research that can aid our understanding of men’s actual experiences of, and perceptions towards, self-management health services and whether these may differ between men of differing age, ethnicity and socio-economic status. 
  • overall, we wish to understand whether there is a need for the NHS to deliver self-management support programmes aimed specifically at men with a long term health problem. We also want to draw together evidence from research that focuses on what men think about self-management programmes and what they consider to be the most acceptable ways in which to help them manage their own condition.

 

This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research (NIHR HS&DR) programme (project number 12/5001/14). Visit the HS&DR website for more information.
The views and opinions expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the HS&DR programme, NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health.