June is Men’s Health Month, a national observance that raises awareness about health care for men. It is also the month when we celebrate Father’s Day, making June the perfect time to celebrate and remind the men in your life about the importance of regular checkups and screenings.
In addition to being a physician, I am also a father, husband and son, so the topic of men’s health is one I don’t take lightly. Quite simply, we need to do a better job as a society to promote the virtues of proactive health among males both young and old. Thankfully, national awareness campaigns like Men’s Health Month are doing an admirable job of spreading that crucial message.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy for men in the United States is five years less than it is for women. Meanwhile, male mortality rates are higher than women when it comes to the three leading causes of death — heart disease, cancer and unintentional injuries. For minority men, the numbers are even grimmer.
Why is this the case? Well, there are many contributing factors, from lingering cultural stereotypes about males being tough and loathe to admit weakness to pure stubbornness. According to a 2018 study published by the Cleveland Clinic, about 40% of men see a physician only when exhibiting serious health issues. And, during a 2016 survey conducted by the Orlando Health hospital system, more than 20% of male respondents admitted they were reluctant to go to the doctor’s because they feared what they might find out.
So, what does better men’s health look like? Well, it’s a number of things that men can easily integrate into their lives. It’s making annual visits to your primary care physician. It’s regular prostate exams and colonoscopies to diminish the chance of severe prostate or colorectal cancer. It’s improving your diet to combat heart disease and diabetes. It’s getting a gym membership and sticking to a regular exercise regimen. It’s making an investment in managing your stress levels and overall mental health by taking up yoga, meditation and/or mental health therapy.
And men’s health education should start at a very young age, which means families should be instilling in their boys the importance of lifelong healthy habits.
The centerpiece of Men’s Health Month is National Men’s Health Week, which this year takes place June 14-20. The week includes the June 18 observance of Wear Blue Day, an awareness campaign sponsored by Men’s Health Network, a nonprofit dedicated to improving male wellness. On Wear Blue Day, individuals, organizations and employers are encouraged to wear blue and host awareness and/or fundraising events on behalf of the cause.
We should all be doing our part to promote better men’s health. So, for any of the important men in your life — your father, husband, children, friends, coworkers, etc. — make it a point sometime this month to show them you really care about them and their well-being by encouraging them to be more proactive about their long-term health. You’ll feel good about it, and, if they take your advice to heart, they will too.
Jignesh Y. Sheth, M.D., a primary care physician dually board-certified in internal medicine and addiction medicine, leads The Wright Center for Community Health as Chief Medical Officer and serves as Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. He sees patients at the Wright Center’s Jermyn practice and lives with his family in Clarks Summit. Send your medical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.