"Network for men" sends patients to the doctor
■ New campaign aims to make annual checkups a macho activity.
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In between car shows, "Star Trek" reruns and wrestling competitions, Spike TV, a men's cable television network, will urge viewers to "check up or check out," as part of a campaign to improve men's health by urging them to go to the doctor annually. Men's lack of regular contact with primary care physicians has long been documented and, as a result, men often miss regular important screening examinations.
"An annual checkup ... is the easiest preventive step for all diseases," said Spike TV President Albie Hecht. "If only guys took care of themselves like they do their cars, just imagine how many health problems could be stopped at the start."
In conjunction with Spike TV's effort, the Men's Health Network, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization, has published a 10-point inspection card to help make the point.
"Prostate. It isn't as bad as it sounds -- just a quick check of the tailpipe and a PSA blood test and you're set for a year," is one example of the card's message.
The National Medical Assn. also endorsed the campaign, and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is board chair. "In my case, a routine physical just may have saved my life, since that is how my doctor discovered that I had prostate cancer," Giuliani said.
So far, the campaign has received praise. "It's a wonderful idea to make good health prudence macho," said Mark Olesnicky, MD, an internist in Florham Park, N. J.
And even if every man does not need an annual exam, anything that encourages the idea is a good thing.
"If you set it every year [for an exam], you're going to do it at regular intervals, and that's the most important thing," said Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, a board member of the Men's Health Network and a senior faculty associate in behavioral science and health education at Emory University in Atlanta.
Spike TV has pledged $5 million for this campaign, which will include public service announcements on the station as well as MTV, VH1, TV Land and CMT. The cable station also will provide free health screenings at fairs across the country. The network hopes to convince 100,000 men this year to go to the doctor and another 1 million next year. Those who make the pledge are also entered in a sweepstakes for a big-screen television and other electronics.