Online platform makes Chinese men more health conscious

As China marked its National Men’s Health Day on Thursday, medical experts in the country called for greater awareness of men’s physical and mental health, issues rarely discussed openly. A health platform helps them do just that.

The healthcare platform, aptly named He Health, has attracted millions of users since its launch in 2019 by LGBT-focused internet technology company BlueCity. Although initially aimed at educating users and providing services on sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, in gay and bisexual men, He Health has since expanded its services to promote awareness of men’s health, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“For a long time, men’s health care needs have been overlooked and issues such as lack of privacy, limited drug purchase channels and limited awareness of sexual health continue to worsen,” Xue Hui, director of medical affairs at He Health, told Sixth Tone. .

As of July, He Health has also been offering online consultations from a list of doctors at China’s top hospitals for up to 200 yuan ($ 30). The app’s revenue reached more than 15 million yuan in the second quarter of 2021, an increase of 135% compared to the same period last year, according to BlueCity.

While online platforms have given men access to information on topics they previously avoided, experts like doctors like Wang Yaotang say it’s important for healthcare workers to engage in frank public conversation. – both within medical institutions and with patients – on subjects such as prostate cancer.

In recent years, the country has seen an increase in diseases such as prostate cancer among men due to lifestyle changes and increased life expectancy. In 2015, the overall incidence rate of prostate cancer in China was 10.23 per 100,000 population, according to the National Cancer Center. In 2020, it rose to 15.6 per 100,000, including more than 50,000 deaths.

“The prostate is sometimes referred to in Chinese as the ‘vital gland’ of man,” Wang, president of Qingdao Yuren Hospital in eastern Shandong Province, told Sixth Tone, adding that he was helping to raise awareness of screening. , early detection and treatment of prostatitis. “The emphasis should be on men’s health in the wake of the three-child policy. The quality and quantity of male sperm is deteriorating and the fertility rate is deteriorating. decreases every year. ”

Chen Han, deputy chief medical officer of the Department of Clinical Psychology at the Shanghai Mental Health Center, said men are often reluctant to speak freely or seek medical advice compared to women. He said the traditional mindset of men being stronger and the perception of asking for help as a sign of weakness can take a toll on their mental and physical well-being.

“In many cases, even if they have depression, they don’t necessarily go to a doctor,” Chen told Sixth Tone, adding that a third of his patients were men.

According to Chen, the majority of his patients are teenagers weighed down by academic pressure or personal relationships involving peers or parents, followed by white-collar workers. To ensure the psychological well-being of children and adolescents, some schools in China have now started mental health education and are providing appointed counselors.

“(Men) usually have so-called verbal defects, which reduces their ability to release negative emotions and pressures,” Chen said. “This is why men are more likely to die by suicide than women.”

But Chen believes that the popularization of science and easy access to information online has raised public awareness of physical and mental conditions. Campaigns such as Men’s Health Day, launched in 2000 and celebrated on October 28 each year, have also helped.

Contributions: Liang Jiaqi; publisher: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: visual of people)

Stephen V. Lee