Because most men don’t live alone, their health is related to the values, awareness, lifestyles, health practices, and ability and readiness to advocate and support of their spouses or partners, and other family members. Following are examples of possible connections between the health of men, women, and other family members.
– A 2001 Administration on Aging report showed that 15% of women (more than 1 out of 10) who marry a man around their same age will become widows by 65-69 years of age.
– the US Census Bureau (2000) also found that half of elderly widows now living in poverty were not living in poverty before the death of their husbands.
– Men who have serious chronic (long-term) illnesses are less likely to have steady employment, which can have a very negative effect on total family income, and also be stress-producing for family members, in various ways.
– The cost of medical illness, especially if prolonged, competes with the amount of family income and quality time available, thus often having a negative effect on the mental and/or spiritual health of the sick man, and his family members.
For the above and many other reasons, eliminating early illness, disability and death among men of color should be among the highest health priorities for families and communities of color, as well as for society as a whole. This is a key issue for the nation, given the steadily increasing percentage of minority, or multicultural populations in the U.S.
D. “Men’s Health Needs, Especially for Men of Color
Because men of color experience greater health disparities than men overall, this project is focusing on:
(a) Helping to increase health awareness and health literacy among men and their families;
(b) Promoting, advocating for, motivating, and providing the tools to help men of color and their families achieve and maintain good health; and
(c) Getting them to increase their priority on disease prevention, early detection and control, which is greatly needed.
Examples follow of why men of color need greater health awareness and health promotion for disease prevention, early detection and control.
Prostate Cancer – Occurs in more African American men than any other group of men in the U.S. although there are easy screening tests for early diagnosis and treatment. There are also common signs and symptoms (signals) of prostate cancer that can lead to early diagnosis and treatment, when the chance of cure, or control, is good. Notice just below that the symptoms of prostate cancer and enlarged prostate often overlap.
Enlarged Prostates – Men often develop the same symptoms for enlarged prostate, and prostate cancer. Therefore, men of color – and their spouses or partners – need to know what these symptoms are. It’s important that the spouses and partners also be informed because sometimes they notice changes in patterns of urination, etc. that the affected men either haven’t noticed, or deny that they exist. It is always important that men with symptoms of an enlarged prostate see a doctor without delay because with an early diagnosis, there’s good treatment for both conditions.
Erectile Dysfunction – Sometimes called impotence, erectile dysfunction occurs when a man is often unable to achieve and sustain an erection that’s adequate for sexual intercourse. Men often don’t want to discuss issues related to sexual function, although if they did so, they would find that many such problems can be effectively treated. Erectile dysfunction is different from having problems related to ejaculation, orgasm or sexual desire.
Common causes of erectile dysfunction include: atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), nerve disorders, stress, depression, performance anxiety, injury of the penis, and certain medications. Some of these conditions may be associated with excess alcohol intake (more than three drinks a day), which is one of multiple reasons for limiting alcohol intake. More information about erectile dysfunction is available in our Men’s Health Channel.
HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) – HIV/AIDS, which is preventable, occurs now in more African Americans than any other group in the US, and the group with the second highest incidence is Hispanics. HIV is also basically preventable today in newborn babies of women with HIV/AIDS, provided the mother receives proper treatment during her pregnancy. Women and men who have sex with men must become well informed about the Down Low – if they are not already informed, and they must also decide how to protect themselves and their spouses or partners.
Men of color and their sexual partners need to also be well informed about other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)s including their preventioin, and early diagnosis and treatment.
Lung Cancer – is almost always a result of smoking. Other diseases that result from smoking include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including emphysema and chronicbronchitis. It must be known that because many minorities prefer menthol cigarettes, they are heavily advertised in minority communities. Smoking cessation (Quit Smoking) choices, including Pathways to Freedom – approach that was especially developed for African Americans. Click here for 5 Health Power Quit Smoking and Win Tip Sheets.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD), an anxiety disorder. While the media and many military families focus on military trauma (major injury) as the cause of PTSD, it can also be caused by those who witness or experience other major traumatic, or violent, events such as rape, child abuse, homicide and other street violence, and natural disasters. Therefore, people of color who live in low income communities, which have higher rates of violence, are more likely to develop PTSD.
More information on PTSD is provided in our Mental Health Channel.
Other Conditions – Men of color and their family members and friends need to have a lot of health awareness in order to be good health advocates and supporters – about: diabetes, obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, preconception health and planning, reproductive life planning, alcohol abuse and alcoholism, depression, stress, and more. They need to know about the risk factors associated with each of these common conditions including family history, screening tests for early detection, treatment possibilities, and how to control or cure them.
If men of color and those who love them are well informed, empowered, and encouraged about their health, we as a society will be taking a critical step toward building healthier families and communities, and not just for communities of color, but for society as a whole.
Click here for: Key Pathways to Achieving Men’s Health.