Studies and surveys indicate that more than half of the men in the United States have not seen a doctor in over a year. Men just don’t go to the doctor as often as they should. Why is getting a man to see a doctor such a problem? And how, as a health care practitioner, can you get your male patients to see the light?
An attitude adjustment is needed. Most men, especially those between the ages of 20 and 50, ignore their health. They feel fine, and therefore think they must be healthy. If patients miss regular health examinations, they are missing the opportunity to deal with problems that may exist but that they don’t know about. They are also missing the opportunity to deal with problems before they arise. They are not able to address issues such as diet, exercise, weight control, stress, alcohol consumption, family history of disease, and insomnia.
Top excuses men give for not seeing a doctor regularly:
- I feel fine
- I work out; I’m healthy
- My dad doesn’t go to the doctor. Why should I?
- Fear of examinations (especially the rectal exam)
- Fear of testicular exam
- Fear of being called out (drinking, diet, not exercising, smoking)
Men need to relate to their health care like they do to their cars; they know they need to change the oil, get their car tuned regularly, and keep it clean and waxed. So how do we fix the problem? Women generally establish medical relationships earlier in adulthood than men. They need to be seen annually by a gynecologist and generally have that relationship in place around the age of 18. Once men “graduate” from the pediatrician’s office, they feel that there is no longer a need for annual care, and they disconnect. This could be a good place to build a foundation. Family practice physicians could make an effort to work with pediatric physicians to form a transition plan for both male and female patients. But what to do about the men out there already today who ignore their health? Within your practice you can promote men’s health by being an advocate through the male and female patients who come to your office. A simple flyer or brochure that your existing patients can take home to a husband, father, or son could help. Make it visible in your examination room that men’s health matters. You might consider taking your flyer or brochure and distributing copies to your local health clubs and nearby corporations.
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Healthy men. http://www.ahrq.gov/healthymen. Includes guidelines, free information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men’s health. http://www.cdc.gov/men/index.htm. A-Z topics on men’s health, men’s health fast stats
- Mayo Clinic. Men’s health. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mens-health/MY00394. Review of men’s health threats, free e-newsletter
- Men’s Health Month Organization. http://www.menshealthmonth.org/. Resources galore can be found here: free posters, flyers, screening guidelines, health facts
- Men’s Health Network. http://www.menshealthnetwork.org. Resource center, health prevention messages and tools