Featured in Healthcare Strategy Alert!’s most recent edition, Dr. Simon’s article, “Making A Difference in Men’s Health, A Marketer’s Call to Action,” serves as a wake-up call to healthcare professionals everywhere to recognize that now is the ideal time to champion men and their health, and to create real, actionable ways to help them get—and stay—healthier.
“Historically,” Dr. Simon writes, “most hospitals and health systems have largely ignored men in their marketing and business development efforts, focusing instead on women. Now, recognizing that men have unmet health needs and can offer new revenue streams, more healthcare organizations are introducing services that can not only make an impact on men’s health, but also expand the organization’s reach and customer base in new ways.”
Consider these statistics:
- Over 92% of women have a primary care physician, compared to only 62% of men.
- Excluding pregnancy-related office visits, women see their doctors for preventative care twice as often and use ambulatory care services 33% more often than men do.
- Not surprisingly, women now live, on average, 5-6 years longer than men.
For African American, Hispanic, and Native American men, the disparity in health status is particularly alarming. They are at even higher risk of overall poor health, for the top 10 major diseases, and for premature death and disability.
An Emerging Movement for Men’s Health
While the momentum for connecting men and boys with healthcare in the US is just beginning, several healthcare organizations are leading the way in developing innovative approaches to reaching them and starting them on a new lifestyle trajectory where health and wellness are important. Crucially, these innovators also understand that men’s health must be addressed very differently than women’s.
INTEGRIS Health, Oklahoma
In 2004, INTEGRIS Health, a not-for-profit healthcare system with 15 hospitals throughout Oklahoma, began to focus on men and their access to physicians and healthcare as part of its community health initiative. INTEGRIS’s solution for raising awareness of men’s health issues was to create the highly-innovative Men’s Health University (a.k.a. Men-U). Formed in 2004, Men-U meets men where they want to be met, in places that make them feel comfortable.
Through free screenings, physician seminars and annual wellness fairs, Men-U has brought over 700 men and healthcare workers together and has become a powerful advocate for men. Collaborating in this effort have been community organizations, radio stations and local celebrities, all of whom are joining the mission to transform unhealthy men into healthy ones.
Hurley Medical Center, Flint, Michigan
Three years ago, while looking for new ways to grow its patient base, Hurley Medical Center, Flint, MI, discovered men’s health as an area of unmet need. None of the other area hospitals were focusing on how to get men into the healthcare system, particularly African American men. Working with the community and churches as well as physicians, Hurley developed a targeted Men’s Health Initiative. Through a series of men’s breakfasts, workshops and church events, men can receive health screenings, meet with physicians, and learn how to get and stay healthy.
Hurley also organized a very successful Men’s Health Fest filled with sporting events, contests and an all-day appearance by local football star Mark Ingram, Heisman Trophy winner and former Flint Southwestern player. More than 1000 people came out to celebrate men’s health in ways that were engaging, fun and yet serious. The screenings tent was filled, with teams of doctors and nurses there to help men learn about their health status. The strategy was to make getting healthy easier, convenient and more fun for men—a healthcare strategy designed around them.
Michigan Institute of Urology (MIU Foundation)
Three years ago, the Michigan Institute of Urology created the MIU Foundation to focus on men. At the time, these urologists were concerned about prostate and testicular cancer screenings. African-Americans had high incidence of prostate cancer, were not getting screened early, and as a result, had unnecessarily poor health outcomes.
To raise awareness of the problem, the doctors at MIU organized two different but highly effective events:
- The Father’s Day 5K Run for the Ribbon has attracted over 1,500 participants annually since its inception in 2009.
- A fall Men’s Health Event, now in its third year, has attracted 1000 attendees annually.
Time to Jump on the Bandwagon
“These groundbreaking initiatives,” writes Dr. Simon, “are the first steps of a growing movement to change the way healthcare executives think about men and their health, how institutions train clinicians to address men’s health, and how healthcare providers deliver care in culturally and lifestyle-appropriate ways. In addition, healthcare systems must find a way to refocus their attention beyond the needs of women.
Indeed, now might be an ideal time, she advises, for healthcare institutions to join together to champion men and their health, with ways to help them lead longer, healthier lives.