Date: June 10th, 2016
By: Guest Blogger
Guest Blog Post by Sarah Verbiest
Men’s Health Month is celebrated in June with the purpose of heightening the awareness of preventable health problems and encouraging early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This month provides a great opportunity to encourage men to seek regular medical advice and focus on the often overlooked sexual and reproductive health needs of males. Given that women are three times more likely to see a doctor on a regular basis than men, clearly it can be a challenge to get a guy in for care. This is important because women are not the only ones who need a range of services to help them to prevent unplanned pregnancies and resources to lead healthy lives, including helping to prepare and decide if and when to become a parent.
Reproductive health is an important component of men’s overall health and well-being. Too often, men have been overlooked in discussions of preconception and reproductive health. Recent research indicates that a typical American man experiences a 13-year gap between first sex and having a first child. Men, just like women, have longstanding sexual and reproductive health needs. It is critical to ensure that our sons, nephews, fathers, and students receive comprehensive sexual health services from their healthcare providers. Further, with the emergence of new health challenges such as the Zika virus, the impact of men’s preconception health on that of their children is underscored.
One way to help young men to address their reproductive and preconception health needs is to make a plan and take action! From an early start, young men should consult with their health care providers during their annual well visits to discuss which contraceptive method is best for him and his partner based on overall health, age, frequency of sexual activity, number of partners, desire to have children in the future, and family history of certain diseases.
Everyone can benefit from having a reproductive life plan based on their own personal values, goals, and resources. It is important to encourage young men to have an annual well visit and to discuss their reproductive life plan with their healthcare provider. However, talking about a young man’s reproductive life plan isn’t just for health care providers. Individuals and organizations that engage young men in various services can assist them to create a reproductive life plan. To do this, talk with them about their goals for school, for their job or career, and for other important things in their life.
Engage young men in a conversation about:
- What kind of relationships they’d like to have and discuss how to develop healthy relationships
- What do they want for their physical health and discuss steps to take to make them healthy
- Whether they want a baby someday or not, discuss with them about their plan to prevent a pregnancy until they are ready to be a father.
Find more about life planning here.
The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, a public-private partnership of 70+ national organizations working to advance preconception health, is gearing up to launch Show Your Love. Healthy Teen Network has partnered with PCHHC on this first and only consumer-focused preconception health campaign. Show Your Love seeks to help young women and men understand the significance their choices and health have on their future families. The resource website and social media campaign is meant to spark action for consumers to “Show Your Love”–to themselves, their significant other, their family/future family–by taking care of their health today.
As part of the social media campaign, PCHHC is recruiting young adults ages 18-30 to join our team by serving as a Show Your Love Ambassador! As a Show Your Love Ambassador, young men can help their peers nationwide understand the importance of daily health choices, be prominently featured by Show Your Love and PCHHC partners, and receive Show Your Love branded gear for fun photo-ops. Know someone who fits the bill? Volunteer or nominate someone today.
Healthy Teen Network and PCHHC have partnered to lead a Men’s Health Month tweet chat to shed light on men’s roles in preconception care.
Join us June 16th 1-2 PM ET using #PCHchat or following @PCHHC and @HealthyTeen on Twitter.
Sarah Verbiest is the executive director at UNC Center for Maternal & Infant Health, which provides direct clinical services to high risk mothers and infants, conducts health services research, coordinates statewide programs, and provides patient and health care professional education. She serves as the director of The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), a public-private partnership of over 70 organizations focused on improving the health of young women and men and any children they may choose to have. She coordinates the five workgroups within the PCHHC: Consumer, Clinical, Policy & Finance, Surveillance and Research, and Public Health. Sarah is a clinical associate professor at the UNC School of Social Work. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @S_Verbiest | Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.
Also check out: Healthy Teen Network’s suite of resources through our Volt Initiative to support young men to take charge of their health.
-Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH, is the Director of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative