Department: Editor's Memo
June is Men's Health Month. Celebrate the men in your life all month but especially during Men's Health Week, which kicks off on June 11, 2018, and culminates on Father's Day, June 17, 2018. The week is a national health observance first established in 1994 through congressional resolution and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
The purpose of this special event is to raise awareness about preventable health problems and to encourage early detection and treatment for boys and men. People often make excuses for not visiting a healthcare provider, but many men in particular have become masters at avoiding health checkups. The American Heart Association published an article for the public on its website, The top 10 reasons men put off doctor visits, which describes common reasons men give for avoiding routine medical screenings.1
The most frequent barriers reported are no regular healthcare provider, no insurance, feeling fine, and therefore, no need to seek care, limited time, and wanting to avoid the potential expense. Additional reasons include feeling that the healthcare provider did not really do anything as well as a reluctance to receive negative information or undergo unpleasant exams. Men preferred to “tough it out” and resist nagging from significant others.1
Is it a guy thing?
Have you heard these reasons from any of the men in your personal or professional lives? Approximately 10% of the patients in my primary care practice are male. The majority of them have been coming to me for a long time, and we have developed strong, trusting relationships. I can depend on them to return for regular and recommended healthcare. My editorial in the September 2006 issue of The Nurse Practitioner was titled Not going for checkups—Is it a guy thing? Very similar reasons were given then based on data from the Men's Health Network in the United States and the Men's Health Forum in the United Kingdom.2
Advocating for men's health
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which includes categories for adults, women, and children, did not offer men as many free or “no out-of-pocket” expenses for gender-specific preventive screenings and services as provided for women. The only male-specific service covered is a one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm for men of specified ages who have ever smoked. Men are not afforded an annual wellness exam or contraception options, among other differences in services as compared with those offered to women.
When the United States Preventive Services Task Force downgraded the benefits of routine prostate cancer screening and testicular self-exams, providers also changed their recommendations to patients. The Men's Health Network reported in November 2016 that “90% of men in the United States want to take charge of their own health. The survey results also indicate the significance of sexual health to men today, with nearly 1 in 3 men (30%) saying sexual health is one of the most important elements of their overall health and wellness.”3
Reaching young males early
Encouraging males to seek healthcare at times other than when ill can be challenging. Instilling the importance of preventive care in young boys is important so they will continue to manage their care upon reaching adulthood. NPs can play a role in promoting this behavior. Healthy males make for a healthier society, so keep working on getting our boys and men into the office.
Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN