Yesterday, public health experts joined the third annual Men's Health Roundtable at APHA, including (speaking)  Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health J. Nadine Gracia. Photo by Daniel Greenberg/APHA

Yesterday, public health experts joined the third annual Men’s Health Roundtable at APHA, including (speaking) Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health J. Nadine Gracia. Photo by Daniel Greenberg/APHA

Males in the U.S. live nearly five fewer years than females. Yesterday, the third Annual Men’s Health Roundtable of public health experts came to APHA to explain why boys and men are not as healthy as they should be — and how we can turn the tide.

“Ten years ago, we didn’t really have these kinds of conversations,” said Jermane Bond, PhD, of the National Collaborative for Health Equity, who moderated the discussion. “A lot of us wanted to jump up and say, ‘What about men?’”

The discussion was timed during Men’s Health Month and highlighted numerous health indicators showcasing the challenges boys and men are facing, including:

  • men are 100 percent less likely than women to visit the doctor for annual exams and preventative services;
  • 1 in 2 men are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, compared with 1 in 3 women; and
  • between the ages of 65-69, only 88.9 men are living for every 100 women living, according to 2010 statistics.

The forum — co-hosted by APHA, the National Collaborative for Health Equity, the Men’s Health Network and APHA’s Men’s Health Caucus — gave special attention to preconception care and reproductive life planning, two health care settings where boys and men have been historically underserved. APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, talked about the gaps he saw 25 years ago as health commissioner in Washington, D.C.

“(Infant mortality) was a big deal here in Washington, D.C., and everything that could be thought of to prevent infant mortality was tried. And despite that, the messages about sexuality and reproductive health for men were very sparse,” Benjamin said. “Fast forward to today and the things we tell men would be the same things we tell women.”

Added Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health J. Nadine Gracia, on her experience as a pediatrician: “When I saw males in our clinic I would cheer for them. I’d tell them it’s so important that you’re taking charge and responsibility for your health. But we certainly have a long way to go.”

Conversations included a number of research, policy and clinical areas that can reduce health disparities among boys and men.

Not all speakers agreed. While HHS Public Health Advisor David Johnson said that “we need more, better data” to change the culture of men’s health, Advocates for Men’s Health Co-Founder Allen Herman countered that “we have data all over the place … including over 40 million birth records online. And the evidence is striking when you look at them. We need to fund analysis of old data.”

Bond explained that the conversations can, and will, turn into action.

“My ultimate goal in doing this work is to improve life expectancy for men,” he said. “And the second goal is to get a (U.S.) office of men’s health.

“But then we have to say what the office will do. It’s a big task. But we have to help (policymakers) figure it out.”

Note: The roundtable was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Reproductive Health and the Office of Minority Health’s Resource Center. Visit the Men’s Health Network and APHA’s Men’s Health Caucus to learn about the health of men and boys, and how to prioritize it.