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The Voice of the Black Community

Health

Cost, fear barriers to men's health
Prevention isn't priority for most guys
 
Published Thursday, June 14, 2012 3:03 pm
by Ebony Shamberger

What men don’t know about their health can make them sick.

During National Men’s Health Week, which ends June 17, men said they put off doctor visits because of costs and fear. The week’s purpose is to increase awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of diseases.

Though men are affected differently by their health, blacks carry a higher health risk and lower life expectancy than women.

Black men are five times more likely to die of AIDS. They are 50 percent more likely to have prostate cancer. And, according to latest edition of “The Black Man’s Guide to Good Health,” a book with health advice for African-American men and their families, they live 7.1 years less than men in other racial groups.

They are also three times less likely to visit the doctor than black women. This can be worse for those men who are uninsured and unemployed.

Kelvin McCain, 46 and unemployed, said he hasn’t visited a doctor for years and the cost of health care isn’t making it any more likely.

“I think we could do something about lowering costs,” he said. “(Then), I think more people would try to do something for preventive measures.”

Denise Howard, family nurse practitioner at Charlotte Community Health Clinic, said costs aren’t the only thing keeping men from the doctor. She attributes the perception of masculinity to their lack of health concern.

“They just wait until something happens that’s overt to them, and then they come,” she said.

Howard said health is a lower priority for men, which also keeps them from visiting.

“Women are more nurturing,” she said. “(For men) their health is not a priority, other things are a priority to them.”

John Hairston, 33, who recently had his first physical in about four years, said he doesn’t visit a doctor unless he knows something is wrong. He also believes people who don’t visit the doctor don’t go because they have “a sense of being indestructible.”

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “Sometimes you’re almost afraid of what you’re going to hear.”

Hairston’s family history of cancer influenced him to start going to yearly checkups and live healthier.

“Most time I don’t go to the doctor unless I know something is really wrong … (or) not being able to pay for it. Insurance is another thing.”

McCain, a teacher at Central Piedmont Community College, said not being offered health insurance at work also kept him from going. That’s when he acts as his own physician. 

“If I get sick, I try to take some medicine,” he said, “If I get a bite, I try to take care of it. I try to medicate myself.”

Despite access to free clinics, Howard said she still sees more women patients than men. However, during her 12 years at Carolinas HealthCare System, she saw more men come in for preventive care.

“The men who are insured will go to the doctor quicker,” she said, “so it has a lot to do with their educational level and their social economic level as to whether they’ll seek out health care.”

On the Net:

www.menshealthnetwork.org/library/menshealthfacts.pdf

 

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