Date: June 8th, 2016
By: Bob Reeg
Hey gents (and ladies who care about gents), it’s that time of the month… er… uhh … oops, I mean YEAR.
If it’s June, it’s Men’s Health Month. The purpose of the month, according to its organizers, is to “heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.” Healthy Teen Network is all aboard!
Beware, even though Men’s Health Month has a broad platform, this month, you’re likely to see a spike in public awareness messages encouraging men to get their prostates checked. As if that’s the only health concern among men. Sigh. Men’s health shouldn’t be reduced to testicular screenings, erectile dysfunction tablets, and hair loss treatments. Men’s health is more complex than that!
For that matter, human health is complex. At Healthy Teen Network, we don’t dwell too much on differences in morbidity and mortality between genders. All adolescents and young adults deserve to, and have the capacity to, lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Extensive comparisons of the health statuses of girls/women and boys/men does not truly advance justice in health, IOHO (in our humble opinion).
That’s not to say that we don’t do some things specifically to advance boy’s and men’s health. After all, while male and female bodies function mostly the same, gender disparities do exist in one’s access to and utilization of health care. Those disparities are due, however, much more to socio-ecological than physiological factors.
With that in mind, Healthy Teen Network encourages you, our blog readers,to take a Youth 360° approach to observing Men’s Health Month in your community, organization, and/or family. Here are a few suggestions how, including resources from Healthy Teen Network’s own Volt adolescent and young men’s health project:
Get the Facts
Familiarize yourself with or refresh your basic knowledge about boy’s and men’s health and related characteristics by reading profiles on the men’s population in the Volt HERO Guide and the Men’s Health Network’s fact sheets.
Learn from Youth
Go straight to the source and find out from the adolescent and young adult men that you support about their perceptions of health and health care and the extent of their health care needs. Healthy Teen Network and the School-Based Health Alliance have prepared an Adolescent and Young Adult Men Focus Group Facilitator Guide for just this purpose.
Improve Your Organization’s “Male Friendliness”
Conduct assessments of your organization, programs, or services to detect what you already do well and where there are areas for improvement when it comes to boys and men inclusion. “Male friendly” assessment tools to consider include the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy’s Male Friendliness Assessment Tool, the National Fatherhood Initiative’s Father Friendly Check-Up and Cardea Services’ Getting Ready for Male Reproductive Health Services: An Assessment and Implementation Toolkit.
Prepare Young Men for their Well Visits
Whether or not your organization provides clinical care, there are steps you can take to help adolescent and young adult men in your organization or your own family feel more comfortable with their upcoming primary care encounters. (Encourage and assist adolescent and young adult men in getting preventive and primary care too!) Refer your young men to the American Sexual Health Association’s Self-Assessment for Young Males, designed for young male patients to help provide a picture of overall health and wellbeing. This assessment can be shared with a health care provider.
Help Young Men Generate Their Healthy Futures
Healthy Teen Network is especially proud of our Volt: Generate My Healthy Future Plan resource for adolescent and young adult men to uncover the health and well-being matters of greatest interest to them and then point them to resources for health information and services. Work one-to-one with a young man in your life or organize a session where a group of youth-adult dyads can collaborate to generate their healthy future plans.
I believe I have given you plenty to do to observe Men’s Health Month not only this month, but throughout the year. If you find I have fallen short, the Partnership for Male Youth and Men’s Health Network have more resources to offer. Unfortunately, I cannot point you to a federal Office of Men’s Health, because no such office exists. Getting that established is an undertaking for a future Men’s Health Month!
About the Author
Bob Reeg, MPA, CVA, Program Development and Public Policy Consultant, is an accomplished nonprofit organization program director & public policy analyst and advocate, and an emerging social purpose entrepreneur.