Dear Mr. Dad: My husband’s father had several heart attacks and recently died of prostate cancer. That means my husband is in a high risk group and should have regular physicals and screenings.
But despite having good insurance, he refuses to make an appointment. I’m worried about him – and our 13-year old son who’s already modeling his behavior on his daddy’s.
A: Unfortunately, your husband is far from alone. From the time we’re little boys, men are conditioned to believe that we’re bulletproof and that showing pain is a sign of weakness. It’s that whole “big boys don’t cry” thing.
No wonder only about half as many men as women have a regular physician, and men make one fourth the number of doctor visits.
The results of this lackadaisical attitude are startling: We’re twice as likely to die of heart, lung, and liver diseases. We’re 40 percent more likely to die of cancer and 20 percent more likely to die of a stroke.
If men suddenly started going to the doctor would they live longer? Couldn’t hurt.
What can you do?
1. Learn about male-specific health problems. And share the facts with your husband and son.
2. Encourage Congress to make men’s health a public priority.
Health care is on everyone’s front burner these days. But many of the options being considered fly in the face of laws in more than 36 states that now require private insurers to provide critical services to men, including screening tests for prostate cancer.
In addition, prostate cancer claims nearly the same number of lives each year as breast cancer and has the same survival rate if caught early. But breast cancer researchers receive more than twice as much funding as those fighting prostate cancer.
3. Support an Office of Men’s Health.
Women’s health has been a national priority for decades and the results have been spectacular. We created Offices of Women’s Health at the NIH, the Departments of HHS, Justice, and Labor, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Center for Disease Control.
Let’s not forget that four times as many men commit suicide as women and men account for 75 percent of violent crime victims, 80 percent of the homeless, and 94 percent of workplace-related fatalities.
Still, not a single Office of Men’s Health exists anywhere.