Minority Men: How to Take Control of Your Health

Understanding health disparities and the role of preventive care

Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images

African-American and Hispanic men are more likely than white men to develop a number of life-threatening diseases and medical problems—and are at greater risk of dying from them.

The statistics are startling.

  • Stroke kills 180 percent more African-American men than it does Caucasian men.
  • Black men have the highest risk of developing prostate cancer and are twice as likely to die from it as other men with the cancer.
  • Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in black men.
  • Nearly 35 percent of black men have high blood pressure.
  • African-American men have twice the incidence of developing prostate cancer and two times the death rate.

The Origins of Health Disparities

Why do these differences exist? It’s a mix of factors that include genetics, living and working conditions, cultural obstacles with caregivers, and barriers to getting medical care.

While many minority populations lack access to quality care, health disparities still exist even in minority populations with good access. This may be due to family history and lifestyle choices.

Genetic differences, although small, appear to contribute to health disparities in certain diseases, such as prostate cancer. So do behavioral factors such as chronic stress, poor diet, and tobacco and alcohol use.

Minority men also have a lower awareness about the importance of preventive health exams and screening. And when they do seek medical help, they can face cultural insensitivity at the doctor’s office, stemming in part from lack of diversity in the healthcare work force.

Lack of cultural sensitivity among health care providers can lead to misunderstandings with minority male patients, resulting in poorer compliance with their doctor’s advice and recommendations. Often, minority patients believe that nobody will be an advocate for them.

Another factor is a culturally ingrained mistrust of the healthcare system.

Ingrained mistrust of medical institutions is common among many minority populations and can be a significant obstacle to healthcare equality.

Taking Control of Your Health  

The important thing for minority men to know is that they can play a strong role in maintaining their health.

Minority men can do this by developing healthy habits such as:

  • eating a nutritious diet
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • exercising
  • not smoking
  • seeing a primary care physician at least once a year
  • getting the right vaccines and an annual flu shot

Minority men also should see a urologist once a year—just like women visit their gynecologist annually.

Urologists are specialists in terms of men’s healthcare needs and can focus on male urologic, sexual, and reproductive issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, prostate health, erectile dysfunction, and reproductive health. A primary care physician may not be considering some of these things.

Minority men also should ask their healthcare providers about screenings for conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Minority men should be sure to ask if race might affect interpretation of the A1C diabetes test. If you're a minority man diagnosed with a hemoglobin variant, your A1C tests may need to be done at a specialized lab for the most accurate results.

More Costs

Healthcare disparities for minority men have an impact that reaches beyond the individual.

Disparities in care and treatment for minority men in the United States could cost as much as $337 billion over the next decade, says a cost analysis published in 2009 by the Urban Institute.

That dollar amount reflects the estimated cost of hospital stays, drugs, and other treatments that result from poorly managed chronic diseases and conditions that are not treated until they are advanced.

One Approach to Solving Disparities

One solution to addressing health differences among minority men is creating a health care environment that is welcoming and meets their specific needs.

This is why Cleveland Clinic created the Minority Men’s Health Center, which is part of the Glickman Urological Institute at Cleveland Clinic. It is the first center in the country created by a urological program specifically designed to address the array of healthcare needs for minority men.

The center offers an integrated program of clinical care and interdisciplinary research. Its mission is to eliminate health disparities by treating urological diseases and connecting underserved patients to additional health care aimed at other organ systems.

The center also provides community health literacy education and outreach and mentorship of youth to promote diversity in the health professions.

We also educate other healthcare providers about the existence and impact of health disparities on minority populations and raise other health providers’ awareness regarding the importance of cultural sensitivity in interactions with minority patients and communities.

More than 1,000 men attended the center’s annual Minority Men’s Health Fair in 2016.

I believe the Minority Men's Health Center and Minority Men's Health Fair represent best practices with respect to innovative strategies to engage and empower minority men to proactively improve their state of health and health outcomes.

Whenever we strengthen the health status of minority men, we are strengthening the state of the entire family. We need strong, healthy men out there to strengthen our community.

Dr. Modlin is a kidney transplant surgeon, urologist, and founder and executive director of the Minority Men’s Health Center of Cleveland Clinic's Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute, the nation’s No. 2 urology program as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources