Keisha R. Callins, MD, MPH
Men’s health has a significant impact on women, their families and friends, and the community. Women often live longer than men and will often see their husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, sons, and friends face medical challenges and even die prematurely. When the men become sick, women will naturally take on the responsibilities of primary caregiver, in addition to their many other roles in the family, and this can have a significant impact on everyone involved. Most women pay more attention to their health and, therefore, can play an important role in improving the health of the men in their lives.
Women can genuinely help men to prioritize their health by understanding some of their barriers and beliefs about seeking care: 1) Schedule, since it may be difficult for men to take time off work to attend appointments; 2) Affordability, since healthcare can be expensive, regardless of if one is uninsured or has insurance with a required co-payment; 3) Accessibility, as finding a provider who accepts a particular insurance within a reasonable distance can be challenging; 4) Priority, as men can sometimes prioritize the needs of their families at the expense of their own health; 5) Delay, because it is not uncommon for men to ignore symptoms or report health problems long after they have started because that get busy or expect things to get better ; 6) Wellness, as men may believe there’s no need to see a doctor if they are not ill, instead of seeing doctors as partners in preventative medical care; 7) Complacency, since men may not realize that they do have the power to impact the outcomes of their acquired or inherited health issues via lifestyle choices and medical management; and 8) Fear, as men may be concerned about possible effects of medications on their bodies or may not be ready to be asked to change poor habits like smoking, lack of exercise, alcohol use, or an unhealthy diet.
Men often accomplish great feats on a daily basis, but many times, taking care of themselves is not among them. Women should embrace the positive influence they can have on the health of their men. Make yourself a health partner (not a pest), pay attention to changes in behavior and be reasonable about when to be persistent if you are concerned. Remind your men that you may not always be right, but you are often right when it counts. Some common issues that affect men include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer (prostate, colon, testicular, and skin), stress and mood disorders, infertility, and erectile dysfunction. Men should know their risk factors, understand their family history, and be connected to a health care provider to help prevent and manage medical issues.
Women are historically influential, and therefore essential to promoting optimal health among the men in their lives. Therefore, I urge you to add your men to your priority list by encouraging them to visit a healthcare provider regularly, and insisting that they seek timely treatment when there is a problem. Constantly remind the men in your life that they are irreplaceable to you, their family and friends, and their community.