Monday, July 20, 2009

Pimp My Pump™

I've been sitting around for weeks now following a heart attack and bypass surgery. Well, maybe not sitting around as such. I made a decision to chronicle my recovery and path to good health with a blog called Pimp My Pump™.

Actually it is more than a blog. I am also writing a book. The idea is simple. I had major, invasive surgery at a relatively young age which I could have avoided. I knew all of the indicators for heart disease and I knew I had many of them. I had even been prescribed medicine to control my blood pressure but I ignored all good sense and the result was a gruesome operation and a disruptive period of recovery.

In the hospital I decided that my experience shouldn't go to waste. If I can persuade one guy between 35 - 50 to ask his doctor to check his heart health then its worthwhile. Hence Pimp My Pump™.

Men's health is an interesting area. In many ways I think it is neglected by comparison to the energy and resources that go into promoting women's health. Campaigners for breast cancer and cervical screening have done an outstanding job of raising awareness of those health issues for women. Millions are spent each year advertising the programmes for screening. The women's health lobby are very vocal as was seen when the New Zealand government's drug buying agency refused to fund the breast cancer fighting drug Herceptin to the same extent that countries seen as our counterparts had. (A Google search shows thousands of pages on the topic).

But men kind of drift in a limbo area. Characteristically we don't pay the same attention to health matters as women. We visit the doctor less (partly because women are more likely to take children to see a family physician); guys also seem to have a mindset that aches and pains will pass - and in most cases they do. It is enculturated in us to 'harden up' and tough things out without complaint. That said, there is also the cultural meme that suggests men are wimps by comparison to women when we are stricken with something like a cold. (It makes for an amusing anecdote but I'd challenge anyone to find credible evidence to support the theory).

I'm not interested in setting up some kind of 'battle of the sexes', that would be pointless. I'm only interested in getting men in the target group to get a heart check and to do a few simple things to avoid heart disease.

I've worked in and around health promotion for years (ironic that I promoted two of the drugs I now take). I have formed the view that most health promotion messages aimed at men fall short of the mark because they fail to take into consideration fundamental communication basics. I don't have all the answers but I am committed to researching the topic and developing educational tools and messages that have some chance of succeeding.

In the mean-time Pimping My Pump is an on-going project. Weight loss, fitness, de-stressing, enjoying a healthy diet are all on my agenda (now that the mechanical reconstruction of a quadruple bypass has been done).

If you have experience of heart disease or are interested in knowing more about the project, don't hesitate to get in touch with me.

If you're male, approaching 40 years of age or are in your 40s get a heart check. It's worth it.

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