Healthy Men, Inc.
Healthy Men Inc. reimagines the approach to men’s care
We are pleased to shine the spotlight on Healthy Men Inc. (HMI).
What do you get when 3 men — all passionate about men’s health — come together to fill a void in our health care system? A nonprofit organization dedicated to helping men and boys embrace their health.
Just over 2 years ago, HMI began its mission to change the approach to men’s health and wellness. The organization operates under the leadership of co-founders:
- Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, founder and member of the board of directors for the National Black Men’s Health Network
- Armin Brott, nationally recognized writer and podcast host known for his men’s health expertise
- Salvatore (Sal) Giorgianni, Jr., PharmD, co-founder and chair-emeritus of the American Public Health Association Men’s Health Caucus
HMI provides resources and support emphasizing a personalized and comprehensive approach to caring for males. There are several organizations focusing on men’s health in this way. But HMI stands out by focusing on one of the root causes of poor health in men: Men do not perceive that health care meets their needs and preferences.
“Our health care system doesn’t always provide services and information to men or boys in a way they can relate to, at the times they need it, and in environments that make them feel comfortable,” Dr. Giorgianni says. According to a Cleveland Clinic survey, 77% of men would rather go shopping with their significant other than see a physician. 72% would rather clean the bathroom or mow the lawn.
Redefining the Approach to Men’s Health
HMI recognizes that changing the status of men’s health in the United States requires commitment and retooling on many levels. Why? Because:
- Government agencies need more funding and programs focused on men’s health.
- Informational resources and media messages about health care often target women and could be better tailored to men.
- Health care education doesn’t include enough male-centered training.
- Medical clinics and practices often cater to women in their décor, waiting room reading material, and approach.
HMI focuses on advocacy and collaborating with organizations, like Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation, that support health for all. But HMI founders believe the real work is in educating men about health. Providers can play a critical role in providing that education and motivating men to engage in their health care. They may just need some guidance on how to do it effectively.
“For example, as recently as 2018, the American Academy of Family Physicians licensing exam included only two questions focusing on guys, and they both focused on prostate cancer,” Dr. Giorgianni says. “That's it. Nothing on mental health. Nothing on weight. Nothing on body image. Nothing on sexual preferences. Health care providers aren’t adequately trained to deliver men’s health care because it isn’t something they’re expected to know for their licensing exams.”
Changing the approach of government agencies and education can be a slow process. That’s why HMI also focuses efforts and programs on the clinical setting, where they can make an immediate improvement.
Helping Health Care Providers Help Men
HMI’s first significant endeavor was creating a training program for male-centric health care communications. The online certification program is designed for anyone involved in the care of men. The core content of the training focuses on 5 areas, aiming to:
- Address the challenges men face, including social stigma, determinants of health, and medical issues
- Assess clinical environments and make male-friendly changes
- Engage with male patients in innovative ways
- Recognize and address sociocultural considerations within various subpopulations of boys and men
- Tailor messages and language so it resonates with men
The certification also includes training focused on working with trusted loved ones — 42% of men say they are their family’s primary health care manager.
“Men’s health isn’t just a men’s issue,” Brott says. “It’s also a women’s issue and a community issue. As a nurse, one way you can reach men is by enlisting the help of the women in their lives.”
So far, the response to the program has been promising. Nearly 100 people have gone through the certification course. Before the course, participants scored between 40% and 60% when tested on their knowledge of providing male-centered care. After the training, they scored between 80% and 90%, with many providers doubling their knowledge.
“A follow-up survey showed that more than 90% of those who took the course saw a noticeable improvement in their relationship and engagement with male patients,” Brott says. The hope is that those new practices and awareness will inspire other providers to consider their own approach to male care.
On the Horizon for HMI
HMI is a relatively young organization. But the sky’s the limit for what they hope to achieve for men’s health.
Areas of interest for HMI include:
Dr. Bonhomme uses the metaphor: You can’t weed half a garden. As a community, vaccinating women and children isn’t enough. Men need to understand that getting vaccinated is critical to keeping their loved ones safe. HMI runs a “Man Up to the Flu” campaign to get more men vaccinated.
HMI is working on a project to help guys be more active in maternal care. Up to 85% of men attend 4 or more prenatal appointments with their partner, but that’s only a fraction of the 12 to 14 visits recommended for low-risk pregnancies.
“We plan to create an online program to support expectant dads and new fathers,” Dr. Giorgianni says. “They would receive the same information they might get in a hospital course for dads, but the online format may appeal to more men.”
Mental health screening
Many available mental health screening tools focus on symptoms more common to females than males. HMI is creating webinars to address the disparity in mental health diagnoses.
“Screening tools often ask if you have feelings of worthlessness or whether you cry a lot,” Brott says. “Men are not likely to answer yes to those questions. But no one’s asking if they self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, alienate themselves from family, take on additional work, or feel angry.” He adds that men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, partly due to these issues going undiagnosed.
Diversity in men’s health
Successfully educating and caring for men requires an individualized approach, and HMI aims to bring that conversation to the forefront. Male population subgroups have different health needs and challenges associated with:
- Cultural practices
- Disease rates
- Ethnic dietary habits
- Genetic predispositions
- Life expectancy
- Socioeconomic status
“It is important to examine the characteristics of each male you care for because each characteristic could lead to markedly different health outcomes,” Dr. Bonhomme says. “Organizations like HMI are essential because we’re addressing the inadequate public awareness concerning men’s health challenges.”
How do you, or how does your organization, promote men’s health and engage men in their health care? Share with us in the comments below.
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