by Amel Ahmed
The year was 2003, and two friends were having a friendly conversation at an Australian pub on recurring fashion trends. During their discussion, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery mused over the demise of the moustache and joked about bringing it back.
That joke evolved into a serious discussion about men’s health. Inspired by a friend’s mother who was raising funds for breast-cancer research, they decided to develop a moustache campaign to raise awareness about prostate cancer. They began by recruiting 30 men from their circle of friends to join them and charged them $10 each to grow a “mo,” short for moustache.
Since then, men across the globe have been growing their moustaches every November as part of a monthlong campaign to bring attention to men’s health issues, a global movement called Movember.
It’s more than just a fun challenge. The goal of Movember, its founders say, is to “change the face of men’s health.”
Participants, known as Mo Bros, register online at us.movember.com and create fundraising profiles as individuals or as members of teams.
Women are also invited to participate in the movement by signing up online and pledging to raise funds and awareness.
Garone and Slattery established the Movember Foundation in 2004. The nonprofit raises funds and awareness for several men’s health issues, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer and depression.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men worldwide, accounting for 30 percent of all new cancer cases diagnosed in men.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men ages 15 to 34, according to theNational Institutes of Health. Testicular cancer is on the rise, with cases having more than doubled in the past 40 years.
About 1 in 270 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in his lifetime.
When it comes to depression among men, according to WebMD, those who suffer from are are four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
In 2012, more than $130 million was raised internationally for these causes. That year, the Movember Foundation was listed as one of the top 100 NGOs in the world by the Global Journal.
Organizers say the movement is having a real impact on the way men think about their health. Theirresearch shows that as a result of participating in Movember, 1 in 5 Mo Bros went to a doctor for a checkup and 1 in 4 recommended someone he knows get one as well. Ninety-one percent of participants thought about improving their health.
“These statistics demonstrate that Movember is helping men take responsibility for their health, that they are taking a proactive approach to preventing illness and have an improved understanding of the symptoms in both themselves and others so they can appreciate when and how to seek help if needed,” the Movember website says.
This year, organizers have introduced a new cause. Citing studies that equate sitting with smoking, organizers launched Move, a campaign that seeks to inspire people to become active. “Run, swim, surf, spin … the sky’s the limit,” reads Movember’s U.S. website.
Events that encourage people to get active will be hosted by local organizers throughout November.
Today, 10 years after Garone and Slattery’s musings over moustaches, men in 21 countries and five continents are set to participate.