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Movember: A Game-Changing Approach to Men’s Health

Movember: A Game-Changing Approach to Men’s Health

Dr. Michael Evans is the creator of the worldwide YouTube sensation “23½Hours,” which has been viewed by over four million people, drastically outpacing any other health-based messaging in history. Believing that everyone should take a proactive role in their health, Dr. Evans shares both his approach to healthcare education and his invaluable knowledge, offering suggestions on how to best take care of ourselves to avoid disease. Below, Dr. Evans discusses the importance of getting men to pay attention to their health through the use of digital media:

So a couple of Australian mates go into this pub for a few drinks — and then things get fuzzy.

Fuzzy, as in reviving the manly art of the moustache, Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds style.

The two men challenged their friends into joining them and doing it for charity. Thirty guys have become more than four million since 2003, when Movember first sprouted in Melbourne’s Gypsy Bar.

Movember began with a focus on prostate cancer and later testicular cancer, both male-exclusive diseases. Its scope later expanded to mental health and physical wellness.

Now the annual moustache-growing month, which raised $131.8 million (Canadian) worldwide last year, is a model of game-changing fundraising — devoted entirely to motivating men to look after themselves.

No coloured ribbons in this masculine effort. Its symbol is a hairy one.

“Our tagline is ‘Changing the face of men’s health,’” says Adam Garone, co-founder and CEO of Movember, from his home in Venice, Calif. “We use the growing of a moustache and the fun of that as a Trojan horse to get men engaged in their health.

“By virtue of getting men to change their appearance, they become walking, talking billboards for men’s health, and they become knowledgeable about risks that they face. Because if you try to approach men directly about their health they will switch off.”

Last May, the Movember Foundation announced the Canadian Men’s Health and Wellbeing Innovation Challenge. This month, more than $1.5 million in awards were announced for grassroots projects across the country. Among others, they include getting incarcerated aboriginal men to make toys for children in poor communities, and launching a mobile socialization workshop for men in remote areas.

Several projects have been awarded in Toronto, including Dr. Mike Evans’ “Beer League Doctor.” As the St. Michael’s Hospital-based family physician puts it, “We know that traditional ways of getting at men and health are not very good, so I think that we have to go where they are.”

That would explain what can only be described as guys’-locker-room-consult-meets-beer-commercial approach to discussing everything from arthritis to alcoholism.

The concept is unsurprising considering Evans’ compelling videos on YouTube, where he’s known as Dr. Mike — scoring more than 10 million views with his witty animated lectures on health.

“I play beer league hockey, and a guy had a heart attack at one of our games,” says Evans, 50, adding he wasn’t present at the time. “He was young. It was out of the blue. He actually died right there.

“I ended up having so many members of my league email me and ask, ‘Am I going to die? And how do I use that defibrillator if Jimmy in the corner has a heart attack?’ Almost every time I am in the dressing room, somebody goes, ‘I am having a colonoscopy,’ and the other guys go, ‘Should I be having one?’ So we end up having all these conversations, and we kind of hatched this idea of what we call Beer League Doctor.”

The initial target will be Canada’s 800,000 Beer League hockey players — about 100,000 of whom are women — who play for fun, exercise and, of course, a few rounds after the game. The project is a multimedia offence on male medical inertia.

It will start with a website initially focussed on sports injuries and then move into more general health issues, Evans explains.

“So you will see me in a locker room and the other players will just Q & A me around embarrassing problems: hemorrhoids or heartburn or erectile dysfunction. We’ll have these impromptu conversations and it will be funny.”

Evans started off as an English major, then got into athletics and world travel. He volunteered with Mother Teresa and later started a business.

It was after all that that he went to med school, where he met his wife Sue, also a doctor. They have three teenagers who, as Evans says with a laugh, have been awed by their father’s YouTube success. “I constantly have a whole bunch of different projects going that keep pushing the envelope, and I love it,” he says.

“Dr. Mike does it well with his fun, entertaining videos; he has quite a creative way of engaging the community,” says Garone, who worked with Evans last year on a Movember video. “We have to step up our game.”

By Antonia Zerbisias /The Toronto Star/November, 2014