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By: Michael J Rovito, Ph.D. and Levani Odikadze, MPH (c)

Women’s health awareness campaigns addressing breast cancer, HPV, or maternity problems are a very common phenomenon. One only has to look at the size and success of the Susan B. Komen foundation to see the power of such a movement. However, the importance of increasing men’s health awareness is somehow left behind. Moreover, it is well know that in case of health problem men are less likely to seek help and address the problem properly than women. This fact is a main reason why the Men’s Health Initiative started March Mustache Madness, a fundraiser campaign for supporting men’s health. March Mustache Madness started with a March 3rd kick-off event at Temple University. Nearly 50 male students pledged to grow facial hair until the end of the month in order to raise money to sponsor Men’s Health Initiative community events. Combining a fundraiser with the March Madness basketball tournament was additional stimulant for participants.

A main goal of the project is to increase the awareness of men’s health and disease prevention strategies among young adults in Philadelphia. Recruited members received weekly emails with detailed information about the following men’s topics: testicular cancer, prostate cancer, masculinity and overall health. Information included detailed instructions of testicular self-examination and contact information for the Temple University Health Service. Participants also gathered several times to watch and support the Temple University basketball team through NCAA games. Socializing and informal gatherings were key factors for achieving the project goal of having men exchange health related information in a relaxed and friendly environment. It is not a secret that endeavors to increase men’s health awareness through formal lectures or conventional messages have very limited success rates.

“We set two primary goals”, says Dr. Michael J. Rovito, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Director of the Men’s Health Initiative “To reduce the health disparity between the sexes and to promote awareness and action among males”.

The March Mustache Madness closing party was held at Time Lounge in downtown Philadelphia. The owner accommodated MHI members with a free space for party after he heard about our project and its purpose. The Men’s Health Initiative gave out one $100 and two $25 prizes for the best mustache styles. Incentives were not a fortune but it was a sufficient reward for students. Surprisingly, attendance was much higher than expected. The project attracted students, their friends and even professors from different fields and backgrounds. We discussed testicular and prostate cancer, spoke about our mustaches, listened to great music and simply had a wonderful time. One thing was apparent – we achieved our goal.

Due to the obvious success of the campaign, members of the Men’s Health Initiative decided to make March Mustache Madness an annual tradition at Temple University and potentially at other schools.  Men’s Health Initiative understands the importance of preventing and detecting male specific malignancies in early stages to dramatically improve the outcome. Since the projects of this type are relatively rare comparing to female health interventions, our team has a strong belief that significant impact in men’s health awareness and health habits can be achieved. This event is a testament to the energy and momentum behind the Men’s Health Initiative’s efforts in reducing the health disparity between the sexes.