Earlier this month, Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma led colleagues and staffers on a one-day circuit workout through the Capitol in support of Men’s Health Month.
The idea behind Mullin’s effort — to raise awareness of health issues in men and how to thwart unchecked dangers — is one way that Congress is publicly working to boost focus and action on prodding Americans to being more pro-active in maintaining good health practices and being more alert to possible health needs.
Males fall far behind women in talking about health issues, seeing health care providers on a regular basis, or taking action when the body sends a warning alarm. That reticence was one reason why bipartisan members of the House formed the Congressional Men’s Health Caucus in 2007.
The Caucus promotes awareness of health issues specific to males, advocates for health prevention such as cancer screenings, and promotes legislation that will improve the health of men. It has been active in the face of American males being passive about health care.
That Congressional focus has produced a health education program, which in turn became the foundation of Men’s Health Month. The Congressional push has triggered screenings, health fairs, media appearances, and other health education and outreach activities across the nation to get men involved in their health care maintenance and care.
A key additional focus for Men’s Health Month is reviewing the steps men and boys are urged to take to help prevent and deter disease and to get early treatment of disease. The two leading causes of death in men are heart disease and cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health; combined, these make up nearly 50 percent of male deaths.
Men’s Health Month includes National Men’s Health Week, the week that ends on Father’s Day, a special awareness period established by Congress in 1994. Governors and more than 300 mayors and Native American communities have issued proclamations announcing Men’s Health Month or Men’s Health Week in their jurisdictions.
The government has led in others areas. One example was in May, when a federal health task force finalized new recommendations impacting prostate cancer screenings for men.
Many diseases in men develop slowly over long periods of time and may not be identified without regular screenings, according to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
Women are twice as likely than men to visit the doctor for annual exams and preventative services, some statistics show. They are more likely to advocate preventive health measures than men. They are likely to start caring for their health at earlier ages then men. And if in a relationship, they are the ones who urge male partners to get with the health awareness habit.
Health advocates say that failure of men to be pro-active in health care needs to change.
Mullin’s effort underscore one point of such preventative actions: walking. Exercise is one of the best ways to blunt many health issues, heath advocates say. Awareness and action can be that easy.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention respectfully reminds, regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. “By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life,” they say.
Women do it. Why do men balk? It baffles the medical community, family members, and men’s advocacy organizations.
Evidence suggests fewer men go to doctors, dentists, or pharmacists for advice and information. This failure comes even though men are more likely to end up in hospital because they wait until the problem cannot be avoided. Some men, especially younger ones, feel that they are invincible and do not seek medical attention until symptoms become almost life threatening.
With age, all are more prone to illness. It is beyond critical — can you say life saving — to be serious about health and make checkups and screenings part of your regular routine. Advocates say that screenings for high blood sugars, high blood pressure, cholesterols, and skin, prostate, and colorectal cancer are the minimum musts.
Studies show that, regrettably, men typically don’t even think about seeing a doctor before the age of 40 unless they have a specific injury or acute illness. Studies are fluid but many indicate that only 37 percent of men have seen a doctor in the last year, another third have not seen one in over a year, and 10 percent do not even remember when they last saw a doctor.
As has often been said, good health is not merely the absence of disease. It's a lifestyle. Without good health, it is not possible to enjoy life’s pleasures.