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A Movember Story – How November Became Men’s Health Awareness Month

Posted by Martin Hewitt on October 30, 2020

Artwork by Kanyakits from iStock

There can’t be many people out there who won’t have heard about Movember or don’t know what it stands for. But how did the eleventh month of each year become synonymous with men’s health awareness, helping a vital campaign move forward and save millions by raising millions in vital funds? Well, here’s the trimmed history…

Stereotypically, the Movember men’s health awareness campaign all started with beers!

In 2020, it’s neither cool nor acceptable to make sweeping statements about gender. You’re just as likely to see a gaggle of guys drinking gin and tonic as you are a team of women downing beers. Nevertheless, old iconography and stereotypes do still exist, and the birth of Movember certainly fits that bill — Travis Garone and Luke Slattery meeting up for beers in Melbourne, Australia, in 2003. 

Alongside other friends, the pals discussed how moustaches were rarely seen anymore. The group decided to try and bring back goatees, handlebars and more, and gave themselves the challenge of growing their own in a bid to kickstart a new trend. Anyone who has been in a coffee shop, artisan deli, microbrewery bar or bookshop in the last decade will know that little idea took off in a big way!

What’s the connection between moustaches, November and men’s health awareness?
The original meeting took place as Australia’s spring season began, which is autumn here in the UK. The idea of bringing back ‘the Mo’ quickly became a campaign for men’s health awareness, specifically prostate cancer. Rules were drawn up, and 30 guys stopped shaving during November that year in a bid to bring attention to the subject. Twelve months later, they formalised the concept, registered a company, Movember, set up a website, and took the campaign nationwide across Australia.

In the second year, participants in the Movember men’s health awareness campaign raised £21,184, helping fund six men’s health projects with the largest single donation ever made to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. By 2007, Movember had grown beyond its homeland, partnering with prostate cancer charities and campaigns in the US, Canada, the UK and Spain. Almost £13.5 million was raised that year. Within 12 months, the campaign had expanded again to cover 152 men’s health projects, from cancer to mental health. 

So, what is the overall goal of Movember and men’s health awareness month?
Currently, figures show men are dying on average six years earlier than women, and many of the causes are preventable. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men aged between 15 and 39. Prostate cancer prevalence is forecast to double in the next 15 years if left unchecked and, crucially, not talked about. Meanwhile, one man dies from suicide every minute, and men account for 75% of all suicides across the world.

Taking those rather alarming facts into account, the fundamental aim of Movember is to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by at least 25%. By focusing on prostate and testicular cancer, and also suicide prevention and mental health, the organisation covers some of the biggest causes of death among men.

The movement looks to achieve this through a combination of awareness building — key messaging encouraging guys to get checked out by their doctor and telling them about the warning signs to look out for — and fundraising. The latter includes, but is not limited to, getting sponsored to grow a moustache, hence Movember. There are some specially themed ways to do this within groups, such as rugby teams or office staff, which can make the process a fun, collective and collaborative experience. However, this year (2020) this won’t be so easy – so groups may need to compare growth online!

Movember has consolidated the subject of men’s health awareness into a specific period of time that’s easy to remember. It has rallied a diverse demographic and offered assistance to a broad range of services and organisations that fall under the men’s health category. All of which means the movement itself has been given an engine room. This dedicated force is helping to push the agenda forward. It has been mobilised, just as Ability Superstore does with mobility aids!

So, why don’t you, or the man in your life, take part in Movember this year, and see what you can raise to help a really worthy cause?

For further details on Movember and how you can take part or donate, take a look at https://uk.movember.com/