We have seasons throughout the year when we celebrate various aspects of the human experience: whether it is the winter holidays, Mother’s Day in May, or Halloween in the fall, we take time to focus on each at a time and we have expectations and activities in place to commemorate each special day.
June is the season for Men; it is Men’s Health Month. And how exactly do we celebrate the men in our lives? We can acknowledge quietly or publicly their important role in our lives, we can thank them for all their hard work and sacrifice in providing for their families. Best Father’s Day gift you could give him is a gift of health: encourage him to visit a healthcare professional, to eat healthy and to exercise often.
African American men experience even a higher life-expectancy gap (of seven years) when compared to African American women. It is no secret that they need to pay more attention to their bodies. The 10 leading causes of death for African Americans are: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, unintentional injuries, nephritis, Nephrotic syndrome, and Nephrosis (kidney disease), chronic lower respiratory disease, homicide, Septicemia and Alzheimer’s disease. Smoking prevalence is higher among men (22.3%) than women (17.4%). They don’t seek medical help as often as women, and according to Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men.
But it’s not all their fault. Men are taught from an early age to work and play through pain, and that ‘big boys don’t cry.’ This attitude lingers with them through adulthood. Moreover, too many men define themselves by their work, which can add to stress.
There are also health conditions that only affect men, such as prostate cancer and low testosterone. Many of the major health risks that men face (like colon cancer or heart disease) can be prevented and treated with early diagnosis. Screening tests can find diseases early, when they are easier to treat. It’s important to have regular checkups and screenings, and June is a great opportunity to get checked.
Problems generally get worse when ignored, and men are pretty good at ignoring their health. At a recent Dialogue on Men’s Health meeting comprised of national health leaders, the barriers men face in dealing with their health was a point of discussion, and experts in the field agreed that men themselves are also a barrier by not paying attention to health messages. They also shared that men are more likely to go for check-ups when urged to do so by someone they love.
Anchored by a Congressional health education program, Men’s Health Month is celebrated across the country with screenings, health fairs, media appearances, and other health education and outreach activities. Community outreach leaders, churches and healthcare providers will be working to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of diseases among men and boys all throughout the country.
Whether you are a spouse, daughter, son, mother, sister, or a friend, you can make the biggest difference in helping the men you care about live a healthy and productive life. So encourage them to see a healthcare provider in June, or better yet, you set the appointment for them.
Men’s Health Month is promoted by Men’s Health Network (MHN), a national non-profit organization whose mission is to reach men, boys, and their families where they live, work, play, and pray with health prevention messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation. Learn more about MHN at www.menshealthnetwork.org and follow them on Twitter at @MensHlthNetwork