Movember: How growing a moustache is putting Leeds health boffins to work

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The modern day moustache has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years – and whether you like facial fur or not, Leeds is at the forefront.

Having all but disappeared from popular culture since the 1980s, furnishing the upper lip has become an annual worldwide phenomenon that symbolises charity fundraising in support of men’s health.

The transformation of the facial hair fad into a vehicle for bringing men together through the Movember campaign was sparked by a group of friends in Australia in 2003 and has raised £400million to date.

The Movember Foundation was launched and it now funds projects all over the world focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and physical inactivity among men.

Embarrassing yourself by sprouting a Des Lynam-style moustache during the month of November has created a talking point and fundraising opportunity for millions.

Its immense reach has seen three recent research projects in Leeds among those to get the backing of the foundation.

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Professor Steve Robertson, who specialises in men’s health at Leeds Beckett University, now also advises Movember on the strategy to tackle men’s health inequalities.

“There is a massively serious side,” he said. “The amount of things they have funded has not only directly helped particular interventions but one of the things they are very keen on is generating longer term learning from things they fund.

“The fun stuff is fantastic in terms of campaigning but it’s important that people know the benefit of what they do.”

Having worked in men’s health for two decades, Prof Robertson has seen a huge growth in the awareness and willingness to tackle issues like depression and mental health problems as well as male specific cancers within the wider population.

He has worked on three research projects funded by the Movember Foundation, most recently as part of a study spanning five countries looking at how and why certain services work for men in mental health prevention and early intervention.

A series of principles to inform future services came from the study, such as that the service settings for certain groups, the language some groups of men can relate to and how services need to be tailored around people’s age, sexuality and ethnicity are all incredibly important.

Prof Robertson added: “I think it’s shifted the whole framework substantially. I’ve worked in the field for 20 years and apart from work around men’s testicles and prostates there really wasn’t a whole lot going on back then.

“There are all sorts of reasons as to why it’s improved and I certainly think Movember has been a part of that.”

HOW TO JOIN IN

Movember launched in 2003 after a chat among a group of friends in Melbourne.

Since then 5m people have joined the movement, grown moustaches for the 30 days of November and raised £400m in the process.

There is now more than one way to join in with the campaign. Men and women can fundraise and this year a MOVE campaign is urging fundraisers to commit to exercising every day in November.

To sign up and raise funds for the Movember Foundation visit movember.com.

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