Monday, June 20, 2011

Making Progress on Men's Health

It's Men's Health Month and a good time to consider male health issues.  Men’s health is frequently overlooked despite the fact that men die five years sooner than women and have higher mortality rates from the leading causes of death.   Understanding the health seeking behavior of men, how they communicate and what influences them is key to eliminating the health gender gap.

It's true: men go to the doctor less frequently

A recent report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that men were 24% less likely to visit the doctor than women over the course of a year.  Male cultural values may be a factor in whether men visit their doctors but research suggests patient dissatisfaction with the office visit may also play a role.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that a majority of African American men reported they didn’t go to the doctor because visits were stressful and physicians didn’t provide the information they needed to make lifestyle changes.  Researchers suggested doctors offer more practical information to help all men follow physician recommendations.  Some useful online resources which address men’s health include:
Talk like a man

Understanding the subtlety of male communication is also critical to improving men’s health.  Joe Zoske, a health communication instructor, suggests focusing on numbers and using metaphors that resonate with men.
Additionally, Will Courtenay, PhD, a specialist in men’s behavioral health, has developed the following 6 Point HEALTH Plan to guide clinician’s conversations with men:
  • Humanize: explain to men that their concerns are normal, not a sign of weakness
  • Educate: take some time to explain; men may be less knowledgeable about health issues compared to your female patients.
  • Assume the Worst:  men tend to underestimate the severity of their symptoms; gently probe to gain an accurate assessment of their clinical condition
  • Locate Supports:   work with male patients to identify supportive individuals and groups  who can help them manage their health issues
  • Tailor Plan:  work with patients to create a realistic health plan that focuses on a few achievable goals
  • Highlight Strengths:  take advantage of male patients’ competitive attitudes to help motivate them about their health
Nagging works

The influence of spouses on men’s health should not be overlooked.  According to a survey of male patients from two primary care clinics, researchers concluded that targeting women is an effective way to change the health behavior of men. (1) This conclusion was validated by a second study which used patient reminder mailings from health insurers to encourage men to seek preventive health care.  When reminders were also mailed to spouses or partners there was a significant increase in the number of men scheduling preventive care. (2)

A national health priority

On June 16, 2011 the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council announced the release of the National Prevention Strategy , a  plan whose goal is improve the health of Americans by focusing on wellness.  For this strategy to succeed, all of us, businesses, educators, health care providers, and individuals,  must do a better job communicating with and motivating men about their health.

(1)   Norcross, William, Carlos Ramirez and Lawrence Palinkas. "The influence of women on the health care-seeking behavior of men." Journal of Family Practice (1996): 475.
(2)    Holland, Denise, Don Bradley and Joseph Khoury. "Sending men the message about preventative care: an evaluation of communication strategies." International Journal of Men's Health (2005): 97.


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  2. In is necessary to Understand the health seeking behavior of men. Man's Health To succeed, all of us, must do a better job communicating with and motivating men about their health.


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