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FirstHealth of the Carolinas
Message from the CEO
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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 apocryphal.

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 know.)

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 significant nuggets:

  • Men use health services less than women.
  • Men are less healthy and die younger than women.

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.

Why?

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 care provider.

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.