It is hard to believe it is June already, which means Father’s Day is just around the corner! June also happens to be Men’s Health Awareness Month. What better gift to give your dad and other significant men in your life, than the gift of encouraging awareness and the relevance of their health.
National support and education for women’s health issues, namely breast cancer, has been more widely recognized in the United States than men’s healthcare matters. In 1985, October was established as Breast Cancer Awareness Month to promote advocacy and awareness for early detection and improved breast cancer treatments. In large part, the number of women who died from breast cancer decreased by 40% from 1989 to 2007 due to increased awareness and support by a compelling cause, symbolized by the identifiable pink ribbon.
Men’s Health Awareness
How many of us knew there is a month dedicated to men’s health? We are willing to bet that not as many of us are familiar with June being recognized not only as a time to celebrate and honor fathers, but a month to celebrate men’s health. In 1994, Congress passed a bill establishing June as Men’s Health Month, a month dedicated to education and awareness on the health and wellness of men and boys, symbolized by a blue ribbon.
Men live shorter lives than women by an average of 5 years. In fact, American men have lower life expectancy rates at all ages and die at higher rates from most illnesses such as cancers, heart disease, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and suicide.
Why the disparity between men and women? Men have been said to have a predisposition to higher risk behaviors like heavy drinking and smoking, and are more likely to take more significant risks when it comes to driving and recreational activities. Also, men have a history of serving in wars and are more likely than women to hold higher-risk jobs with workplace hazards in occupations such as emergency response, including firefighters and police, construction, manufacturing, agriculture and forest, mining, and military occupations.
When it comes to physical and emotional well-being, women are far more likely than men to keep annual physical appointments and seek professional medical advice when not feeling well. A survey of 500 men, ages 18 to 70 across the US, found that only 3 in 5 men get an annual physical, and only 40% will go to the doctor if they are concerned about a severe medical condition.
Why are men skipping medical appointments? Researchers shared in an article in the Wall Street Journal that the idea of masculinity and “manly” stereotypes may contribute to the notion that it is weak to seek medical advice. The idea that men should be strong, self-reliant, vital, tolerant, and manage emotional self-control may have a negative impact on eventual health outcomes.
Men also reported in a 2016 survey that 20% were uncomfortable with the idea of prostate and rectal exams, and 21% were afraid to hear bad news from those exams. The biggest reason men said they did not keep regular medical appointments was that they were too busy to go.
So, how can we encourage men to think differently about their health care? How can we dispel the notion that it is not weak to talk about health concerns or seek medical advice? Engaging in conversations about health can lead to taking action regarding your loved one’s health and well-being.
The Men’s Health Month movement is about awareness, just like the Breast Cancer Awareness movement. Its purpose is to “heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.” More knowledge and recognition of this event and its purpose could have the potential to narrow the mortality divide between men and women.
Knowledge is Power
This year, the week leading up to Father’s Day is when communities across the country will promote Men’s Health Week. This is the perfect opportunity to generate conversations about the health issues that are the biggest threat to men. Accompany the special guy/s in your life to an event and learn more about men’s health care. The chances are good that something is happening in your community to support this vital cause. Take a look at this website to see more examples of events.
- A conference provided by the Marine Corps for 3,000 individuals in the military on testicular cancer
- The Franklin Baptist Church of New Orleans offered free screenings for vision, cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure, and seminars on colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and tobacco use risks.
- Edwards Air Force Base, hosts “Ask-a Doc” where fathers and families learn about hypertension, sleep apnea, and skin cancer prevention
- San Diego Black Health Associates announced its “Steppin’ to Health” project designed to encourage men to get a check-up.
Fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers will live longer, healthier lives when they pay attention to their health and see a primary physician on a regular schedule. Age-appropriate screenings such as blood pressure screenings, EKG’s, PSA tests (for prostate health), and chest x-rays, are just a few preventive measures that, if followed, can improve health and reduce premature death and disability. A relationship with a healthcare provider will determine what is best for you or your loved one.
It may be easier to talk about having a healthy diet, exercising, or getting enough sleep to support a healthy lifestyle, but not going to the doctor should not be an option.