Man up for your health! Healthy men move communities forward

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by C.H. Wilkins, M.D.
For New Pittsburgh Courier

A few weeks ago, I was reminded that April is Minority Health Month. It wasn’t that I had forgotten. It was more that keeping up with the health reform legislation had been a priority.

If you are not familiar with National Minority Health Month, you may wonder what its purpose is. The overarching goals of Minority Health Month are to bring awareness to the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in our country and to develop an organized effort to eliminate these disparities. The state and local organizations that participate in Minority Health Month often use this as an opportunity to empower minorities to improve their health and gain support for policies that will help reduce disparities.

b4wilkins
CONSUELO H. WILKINS, M.D.

When I visited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website for National Minority Health Month, I was somewhat surprised to see the theme for this year— “Man up for your health! Healthy men move our communities forward.” Also on that Web page were other eye-catching titles— “Real Men Wear Gowns,” “Real Men, Real Depression” and “Real Men Keep Themselves Alive and Well!”

I liked the idea of focusing on the men’s health because statistics show that women are twice as likely to see a physician (even when you exclude visits for obstetrics and gynecology). This is especially true of African- American men who, along with Native American men, have the lowest life expectancy in the country.

I wondered, however, whether the approach targeting minority men was too aggressive. The terms- “Man Up” and “Real Men”—seem to suggest that the best way to get a man’s attention is to “threaten” his manhood. I’m sure that proponents of the language would argue that something has to be done to get their attention.

I believe the best strategy to get anyone to improve individual health is to provide as much information and education as possible. So in celebration of National Minority Health Month, here is some information that supports the need for Healthy Men to Move Our Communities Forward. As you will see, not all of the points are specific health data but they demonstrate the impact of men having a lower life expectancy than women.

•African-American men are outlived by African- American women by eight years.

•Overall, more males than females are born (105 to 100), but beginning at age 36, women outnumber men.

•The male fetus is at greater risk of miscarriage and stillbirth and more than 25 percent more newborn males die than females

•Of the more than 9 million older persons living alone, 80 percent are women.

•More than half of the elderly widows living in poverty were not poor before the death of their husbands.

•At age 100, women outnumber men 8 to 1.

•One in five American men has heart disease.

•One in three American adults has high blood pressure.

•Three in four American men are overweight.

•Men suffer hearing loss at twice the rate of women.

•Testosterone is linked to elevations in the bad cholesterol and declines in the good cholesterol.

•Men have fewer infection-fighting T-cells than women.

•The chance of being a victim of homicide is one in 30 for African-American men, which is six times the chances of homicide for White men.

•Depression is under-diagnosed in men and men are four times as likely to commit suicide.

(For more information about National Minority Health Month, visit minorityhealth.hhs.gov and for more information on men’s health visit http://www.menshealthnetwork.org.)

(Reprinted from the St. Louis American.)

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