On Ocsober

Ocsober started out as an Australian fundraising initiative, raising money for educational charities by asking people to abstain from drinking alcohol during the month of October. It’s been going for more than 30 years now, but it’s only this year that it’s caught on in SA, thanks to 5fm’s morning DJ, Gareth Cliff.

Of course, this idea of raising awareness for any given month and having a play on words as its title is not unfamiliar to us, as we have had to suffer the outrageous slings and arrows of Movember for several years now in order to promote men’s health awareness.

It got me thinking – why have only a couple of months been used in this way?
After all, we’ve got twelve to choose from. So it’s surely only a matter of time until each of the months get utilised by some company or organisation or other in support of their business or cause?

With that in mind, here’s a (mostly) fictitious glimpse into what we could be experiencing in the very near future, as we’re all encouraged to do silly things for a few weeks at a time:

Panuary – Cooking vessel and related utensils awareness month. Sponsored by the International Guild of Stoveware Equipment Manufacturers.

Febumarry – A 28 (or 29) day period in which you are encouraged to hastily and thoughtlessly get hitched, thus wholly devaluing the act of marriage.

Parch – Avoid all liquids for 31 days for no apparent reason. Die.

Graypril – There’s possibly far too much colour in your life and this could be adversely affecting your health in some obscure way or other. Use Graypril to remedy the situation by getting rid of brightly coloured items in your home environment and replcing them with depressing, monotone hues.

Gay – Try homosexuality for a month. You might like it!
Or, if you’re already homosexual, go straight for a few weeks. If you’re bisexual, just can just chill.

Prune – 30 days of celebration in honour of the humble partially-dried plum. They make you poo.

Ju-lie – Are you able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth for an entire month? Of course you’re not, and that will mean a hefty donation to a charity each time you tell a porkie.
Politicians are exempt from taking part, for obvious reasons.

Floorgust – The South African Laminate Flooring Association invites you to consider your underfoot requirements this month, with special offers and roadshows at popular flooring retailers and suppliers. Fascinating stuff and probably my favourite commercially hijacked month of the year.

Leptember – The awkward combination of Leprosy and September in which you are encouraged to become infected with M.leprae and lose a digit or limb in sympathy with other leprosy sufferers worldwide.
Motto: “Only by bringing this disease back can we show that it has never really gone away”.

Ocsober – Try to go 31 days without drinking any alcohol, simply to prove you’re not addicted to alcohol. Which you are.

Movember – Don’t shave your upper lip, don’t get prostate cancer (or something).

Beecember – Raising awareness about apiary pollination and honey products, and dispelling the myth that physics shows that bumble bees shouldn’t be able to fly.

What months do you think would be good candidates for a list like this?

Misleading Movember

It’s Movember, and I’ve been getting increasingly annoyed each time I see this much shared tweet:

If you’re doing Movember and you haven’t got your prostate checked, you’re missing the point.

Because for the vast majority of men participating in Movember, “getting their prostate checked” would be a waste of time and money. And that’s a viewpoint now supported by this letter to the BMJ from a GP in Glasgow, which asks why on earth men under 50 are being encouraged to “get their prostate checked”.

In the UK, the NHS screening programme for prostate cancer only begins when the patient is 50 years old. This is because prostate cancer is strongly linked to age and there is very limited value in testing for it below the age of fifty. (I’m talking about the general population here – obviously, having a family history or symptoms of the disease are reason enough to get tested at any age.)

Movember is a global campaign that asks men to grow moustaches in the 11th month of the year, “with the aim of raising vital funds and awareness of men’s health issues.”

Which is great. But, as I have pointed out earlier this week, rather raise awareness in a helpful and accurate manner. That tweet at the top is simply populist, retweetable nonsense. Now if it were about checking for testicular cancer, that would be far more valuable for the age group generally involved with the whole Movember thing.

Movember does not just seek to raise money but also to “significantly increase the understanding of the health risks that men face and will encourage men to act upon on that increased understanding.” To do this, men need fair and accurate information. Movember’s emphasis on screening tests, its recommendation of a frequency of screening that is not based on evidence, and its failure to provide good supporting information place well intentioned men in unhelpful conflict with their doctors.

Correct. (Emphasis by me)

So I’m going to give you a different version of that tweet at the top:

If you’re dispensing advice about men’s health and it’s not accurate, you’re not helping. http://u3.co.za/19n #Movember

There. Go retweet that.