Charles T. Frock
Chief Executive Officer
FirstHealth of the Carolinas
Stories abound about men and the problems
they have with asking for directions. While
some may be true, many more are certainly
Take, for example, this old chestnut about
an important man and new world exploration:
“Christopher Columbus didn’t need directions
and neither do we.”
Call it a guy thing.
An extension of that guy thing involves men
and health care. Very often, men put it off and
put it off until, like Columbus, they’ve steered
themselves into uncharted territory and sometimes
into serious trouble. (Columbus may have
discovered a new world, but he made it back
to Spain with only two of his three ships, you
Dr. William Alexander of Atlanta’s
Morehouse School of Medicine shared some
insights about men and health care during the
Men’s Health Summit hosted by FirstHealth
of the Carolinas earlier this year at the Friday
Center in Chapel Hill. They included these two
- Men use health services less than women.
- Men are less healthy and die younger than
Men also die from the top 10 causes of death
at higher rates than women, a statistic that is
even greater for men of color. “Men suffer in
silence, tune out pain and consider their bodies
simply as vehicles to get from one place to
another,” Dr. Alexander said.
The director of Morehouse’s Institute for
Health Policy, Dr. Alexander cited a “crisis in
men’s health” created by poor health habits,
lack of insurance, dangerous occupations and, of
course, the failure to seek medical attention.
Women visit family physicians about 150 percent
as often as men who then die by the tens
of thousands from preventable causes each year.
Men are also less likely than women to seek
help for depression and are four more times as
likely to commit suicide.
That is the question.
The easy answer is that men don’t have as
much early incentive for health care as women.
While we guys may turn out for the occasional
high school or college athletic physical, we’re
generally AWOL from health care once our
playing-days are over.
On the other hand, women, because of their
child-bearing role, become oriented to regular
and often invasive medical procedures relatively
early in life. Pregnancy exams and then Pap
tests and mammograms quickly become routine
for women who think nothing about scheduling
annual visits with their gynecologist or primary
This issue of FirstHealth of the Carolinas takes
a look at men and their health, offering information
on some common health-care conditions,
the screenings that are available to detect
them and the procedures that are available to
treat them. Some of these treatments, high dose
rate brachytherapy and robotic surgery, for
example, didn’t even exist a few years ago, but
they are rapidly becoming standards of care in
the treatment of prostate cancer.
There is more to the matter of men and
health care than detection and treatment,
though, and change will occur only when men
begin to take more control of their health. That
involves preventive care, healthy behaviors, selfexamination
and regular physician visits, probably
with incentives from the health-care community
about developing a better understanding
of male attitudes toward health.
Quite simply, it means asking for directions.