It’s Men’s Health Month! Every year in June, health organizations across the world do their utmost to raise awareness of men’s health issues and to provide resources for boys, men, and their families. Given that the average man in America now lives five years less than the average woman (the difference was just one year in 1920!), and that women are twice as likely to have an annual physical and make use of preventive health services (CDC), there’s no time like the present to take steps to bring more men into the health and wellness fold.
As clinicians, Men’s Health Month offers a great opportunity for you to talk to your patients and their families about ways to improve access to health care for men and boys. Preventive health care should be a normal part of every man’s life, and can help to spot problems early, including high blood lipids and blood pressure, prostate problems, and mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and stress.
A breakdown on men’s health today
There are some convincing reasons why Men’s Health Month was started- mainly, though, it seems males aren’t fairing as well as females when it comes to good health and overall wellness. Here are a few sobering facts about boys’ and men’s health, from the Men’s Health Month organization itself:
Men die at higher rates than women from 9 of the top 10 causes of death
Men are the victims of over 92% of workplace deaths
Men are 4 times more likely than women to commit suicide
Men suffer hearing loss at twice the rate as women
3/5 SIDS deaths occur in boys.
Some of the most common health issues affecting, and killing, men are almost entirely preventable through preventive health care. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that 1 in 4 of all deaths from heart disease and stroke are preventable. What’s more, men are twice as likely as women to die from a preventable heart attack or stroke (Harvard Health, 2013). And yet, men rarely prioritize their health and wellness until they have a wake-up call such as a heart attack.
How can clinicians support men’s health?
Just by looking at the statistics above, added to the fact that testosterone is linked to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, it is painfully apparent that more needs to be done to support men in making healthy choices throughout life. Private health clinics have an unprecedented opportunity to make this a reality, by using digital health technologies such as patient platforms to help:
Increase health education through accessible information via patient portals
Flag health issues as they arise, thanks to real-time input from patients about their daily health
Simplify scheduling for annual examinations, vaccinations, and follow-up appointments
Offer complementary services, such as help with stress and weight management
Build a greater rapport between men and their health care providers, so men are more likely to open up about their struggles and seek help.
Clinic activities to promote in June
There are so many great ways to take part in Men’s Health Month! Two of the easiest ways to promote awareness are to wear a blue ribbon or host a ‘Wear Blue Day’. You could organize a staff fun-run and all wear matching blue shirts with your clinic’s logo, or you could organize a blue bake sale and raise funds for a local men’s health charity.
Taking things a step further, how about offering a free consultation to patients’ male family members who are yet to visit your clinic? Or, consider partnering with a local church, library, school, gym or other organization or business to co-host a men’s health event where you provide free screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, PSA (prostate specific antigen), and body fat. It’s a little late for this year, but for 2019, consider working with partners and stakeholders to organize a men’s health community forum, or sponsor an existing event.
If you’re a weight management clinic, you could host a healthy cooking demonstration or a community potluck – use your online presence and/or patient portal to provide recipes for healthy dishes people can bring. Or, host a weekend information session on men’s health for your current and prospective patients.
If your clinic focuses on pain management, how about running a ‘Feeling Blue?’ campaign to highlight resources for men dealing with chronic pain and associated depression and anxiety? A key part of supporting men’s health is helping men to feel more comfortable talking about their health issues and their fears and worries. Men often downplay their need for support and are burdened with overwhelming societal expectations to be strong and silent. No wonder most men find it hard to ask for help.
Let’s change that this June by giving boys the freedom to experience and acknowledge their emotions, and to develop tools that will serve them well as they get older. We can all work a little harder to help men develop the tools they need to build a strong support network with their male peers, especially those living with similar health problems. One great way to do this is to facilitate an informal discussion group for your clients, in person or online. And, if your local newspaper or magazine is open to it, ask to contribute an article this month to explain a health issue predominantly affecting men and/or detailing what you and your staff do every day to support men’s health.
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