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Where Are Web Sites for Men?

May 31, 1999|MARLA BOLOTSKY

I recently noticed an online banner advertisement featuring a woman giving herself a breast examination. In the land of URLs, it seems that almost every iteration of "woman, women and health" is spoken for. Web sites abound with even the most intimate details of a woman's body and her health.

But what about men? Relatively few Internet sites cover men's health, and I've certainly never seen a Web page banner ad illustrating a testicular exam.

Men's health is a very different animal from women's health--online and off. Could it be because men generally place a lower priority on being in tune with their bodies?

In writing about women's health in a recent column, I found that my most difficult task was choosing from among many sites. Yet in preparing this column on men's health on the Web, I discovered the hardest part was finding sites.

Of course, men's health information can be found on a number of general-interest health sites that I've reviewed in previous columns, but I wanted sites devoted specifically to men's health.

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Getting men to visit their doctors annually--rather than waiting until their medical symptoms get serious--is one of the key goals of National Men's Health Week, a 6-year-old public awareness campaign that runs June 12-19 this year. The campaign has its own Web site, (http://www.nationalmenshealthweek.com), timely health statistics, special information geared to African American and Latino men, and a useful bibliography of books and other reference material. For example, you can get a free copy of the "Men's Maintenance Manual," a 32-page booklet addressing men's health issues. I suggested that they post the booklet on the Web site, but they didn't seem interested.

I hadn't heard of Men's Health Week before finding the link on the Men's Health magazine Web site (http://www.menshealth.com, another good site). But the national organization that is sponsoring the event has recruited such celebrities as Larry King, Barry Bostwick, Katie Couric and Montel Williams to get out the word.

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Another men's health education campaign is Cap Cure (http://www.capcure.org). This prostate cancer research group, founded by former junk-bond dealer Michael Milken, who is also a prostate cancer survivor, has organized two high-profile sports-related fund-raising events profiled at http://www.capcure.org/getting/events.html. Baseball stars, including Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ivan Rodriguez, have agreed to raise money for prostate cancer research with every home run they hit between Father's Day, June 20, and June 25.

And this beautifully designed site has more. Fans of the Senior PGA Tour can donate money toward prostate cancer research for each birdie made by Arnold Palmer, Jim Colbert and certain other senior golfers during 1999. Both events allow you to pledge money online, using a credit card.

Cancer of the prostate is the second-most common cancer among U.S. men, after skin cancer. That statistic has been driving the Cancer Research Institute's "Prostate Cancer Initiative" since 1996 and is behind a number of other efforts to battle the disease. In Los Angeles, the group is organizing a 5K walk and sports festival later this summer.

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The Male Health Center (http://www.malehealthcenter.com) is a privately run clinic founded in 1989 by Dallas urologist Ken Goldberg. The center reflects a holistic philosophy that looks at the whole man, not just isolated symptoms. The site design is simple, and a full index of the contents is laid out on the home page. (The page is pretty long, so you've really got to keep scrolling. Perhaps they'll rethink the page layout.)

The site does seek to promote and sell Goldberg's books and videos. It also includes the doctor's own "His Health" columns, covering such subjects as infections and diseases, nutrition, weight loss and "a father-son talk." If you're concerned about a certain ache or pain, or other medical problem, the site map includes a list of symptoms that will help you determine whether to call the doctor. A feature called "Straight Talk" provides answers to common questions about sexual health and other male medical questions. Although I wasn't crazy about the photograph of the bikini-clad blond in the "Sex and Other Fun Stuff" section," if it keeps men reading. . . .

The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 7 million U.S. men suffer from erectile dysfunction. It is also known that many men never report the problem to their doctors. According to the American Foundation for Urologic Disease's Impotence Resource Center (http://www.impotence.org), impotence is the most untreated medical disorder in the United States. (About 95% of cases can be successfully treated.) And since impotence is often a symptom of other illnesses--diabetes, prostate cancer and high blood pressure, for example--it's important that men seek treatment.

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Another resource on this subject can be found at http://www.impotenceworld.org. Created by the Impotence World Assn./Impotence Institute of America, the site has patient interviews, news on new treatments, facts about the dysfunction and more.

With specialized sites like these, along with more traditional sites operated by organizations like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Assn., perhaps there will be more attention paid to men's health in cyberspace. Does that mean we'll soon be seeing a banner ad for testicular exams?

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Marla Bolotsky is managing editor and director of online information for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. She can be reached by e-mail at marla.bolotsky@latimes.com.

* Your Health Online runs every other Monday in Health.

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