Lewis Robinson III
Each year National Men’s Health Week is celebrated the week leading up to and including Father’s Day. During this week, individuals, families, communities and others work to raise awareness of ways to promote healthy living and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
I attended the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Public Health Association. The mission statement of OPHA is to “Promote public health improvements through education, practice, and advocacy.” This year’s conference promoted eating better, moving more, and being tobacco free – essential elements of health.
In my four years of attending this annual meeting, this year was the first time that I have seen a specific session addressing men’s health.
The breakout session was titled “Trends in Men’s Health Research and Outreach: A Focus on Masculinity and Gender Roles within the Social Environment.” The presenter was Dr. James Leone, an assistant professor of Health Education at Bridgewater State University in Boston, Mass. His research revealed that most men have a “gender role conflict” as it relates to going to the doctor. He says in our culture the views of “traditional masculine values” are usually expressed as stoicism, providing and protecting and strength. However, the social stigma, or challenges to masculinity, is emotionality, femininity and weakness, with the resulting potential consequences being low self-esteem or aggression. As a result, men tend to not go to the doctor. Many men see this as a sign of weakness, reacting to the stigma that they are somehow weak or less masculine because they go to the doctor for a checkup. Therefore, the taboo of appearing weak is claiming lives on a regular basis. The taboo of appearing weak is robbing kids of time with their dads and wives of years with their husbands because of the decision to not have a regular checkup or show interest in our own wellbeing.
We, as men this Father’s Day, should give our family a gift by going to see the family doctor. We should lead the way for our families to living healthy lives, to caring about our welfare and the welfare of our families. As we lead by example, we can pioneer the way to healthier lives.
Lewis Robinson III is tobacco prevention coordinators for Oklahoma State University Prevention Programs.