Establish the U.S. Office on Men’s Health
Establish the U.S. Office on Men’s Health
Break the Silence and Establish the U.S. Office on Men’s Health
Exactly this month, one year ago, I embarked on an ambitious road trip through America — 8,867 miles, to be exact — to raise awareness on a topic we often sweep under the rug. You see, I’m a 45-year-old man that has been living with prostate cancer for the past ten years.
After my prostate cancer diagnosis, I met doctors and experts who educated me on lifestyle interventions to prevent, reduce risk, reverse and improve outcomes for many of our top health killers.
Throughout my battle, I’ve learned, grown and changed. I know now that my diet and lifestyle choices can prolong my life — and that those choices could have helped prevent disease. I wish I’d known sooner, and I’ve spent the last 10 years reaching out to men to educate them and share my story, in the hopes of saving others from a similar surprise diagnosis.
I was a fast-food aficionado that thought doctor’s visits were only for the sick or weak, or something only older men had to think about. I was far from alone in thinking and behaving that way. Men’s mental and physical health issues are something we don’t bring up much — there’s shockingly few resources on men’s health that don’t focus on issues outside of low-T, how to bulk up or erectile dysfunction. We’re silent on the rest.
Men can be also be stubborn and resistant to change when it comes to matters of health. On my trip around the country, I had conversations with men who had experienced health issues, discussing how change often only comes after a health crisis. That approach can be too little, too late.
I heard from wives and mothers who shared thoughts on how to break through and reach their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. While they attended numerous events for pink campaigns, that same energy doesn’t exist to prompt the men in their lives to action, get screened and make small steps toward a healthier lifestyle.
From the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, in America, more men than women die from heart disease, cancer, suicide, accidents, diabetes and kidney disease. In fact, men lead women in 6 of the top 10 leading causes of death.
Data from countries worldwide show more men than women are also dying from Coronavirus. Doctors and scientists say the reasons for the disparity are biological and behavioral.
When it comes to health, men fight stigma from cultural norms and media portrayals of how men are supposed to ‘tough it out.’ We base our health decisions on a combination of the way we’ve been marketed to and conditioned to act, which is what gets us to today: a sick, overweight or obese population (combined 70%+) where men die an average of five years before women.
Men put our health needs off and delay going to the doctor. As a result, health issues can become more serious, expensive and, at times, fatal. These statistics only amplify for communities of color.
In 1991, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established an Office on Women’s Health (OWH) with a mission to improve women’s health through policy, education and innovative programs.
Today, OWH provides information and resources for women including two national websites, a 1–800 line, a robust social media presence and ten Regional Women’s Health Coordinators across America that support OWH on a local level, identifying regional health needs for women and taking action to address those issues at the State and local levels.
I support the OWH — they’ve made incredible strides in communicating and providing preventative information to women of all ages. So, what if there was an Office on Men’s Health?
What if we changed the conversation and had similar resources for our young men? What if public health campaigns encouraged men to get annual checkups at a younger age, to adopt healthier lifestyles, or encourage mental health?
Currently, our leadership doesn’t seem to see the importance of addressing men’s health. The current pandemic provides a compressed example of what can happen when misinformation and stigma take precedence.
According to the CDC, 90% of our annual $3.5 trillion in health care expenditures address mostly lifestyle-driven chronic and mental health conditions. To save lives, we need public health campaigns, resources and coordination at the Federal level.
We need the support of both men and women to make this happen. We’re calling on journalists, community leaders, legislators, medical professionals and those who value the lives of their friends and family to shine a light on this cause and acknowledge that men need help and support with their health.
This is an election year, and we have an opportunity and a responsibility to get our candidates to support a long-overdue Office of Men’s Health. Please sign & share this Petition. Ask journalists to make this an election issue and ask our candidates to go on record to commit. Ask your United States Congressperson and Senators to commit. Together, we can make a difference.