Men’s Health Matters!
Trinidad and Tobago was the first country in the world to mark November 19th as International Men’s Day, when Dr Jerome Teelucksingh of the University of the West Indies organized the event at Families In Action, Port of Spain, in 1999. It began as a celebration of the positive male role models and from there, the celebrations took on more significance, including celebrating the role of men in promoting gender equality. One of the major focuses of this day is Men’s and Boys’ Health. Men face a unique set of health challenges, which are not limited to physical health, but encompasses mental health as well. These challenges can shape an entire family. Medical practitioners indicate that some of the major health issues which men face are:
- Substance Abuse and Addiction- Men are more likely than women to develop drug and substance abuse patterns, and report higher uses of these overall. These include alcohol, cigarettes and illicit drugs. Using these drugs leads to a host of health and social problems including respiratory issues, liver issues and chronic diseases.
- Cardiovascular Diseases- 1 in 3 men have a heart or heart-related condition, which includes hypertension and stroke. This is currently the leading cause of death in men of all ages and races, and poses a serious threat.
- Depression and Suicide- Men are less likely than women to develop depression than women, but are more likely to die from a suicide attempt than women. Depression and other mental health issues plague at least 17% of men worldwide, and is a major issue that men must deal with currently.
- Unintentional Injuries and Accidents- Men are twice as likely as women to sustain a serious injury, whether it be occupational or incidental, and therefore have a higher risk of permanent disability or death from these.
- Reproductive Health- Men may suffer reproductive issues, including infertility, erectile dysfunction and low testosterone. These affect a large number of men, and can have negative effects on other aspects of a man’s life beyond his physical health.
What further compounds these health issues is the limited health-seeking behavior that men exhibit; data shows that most men are likely to go to the health care institution only when the problem is significant, rather than preventatively. Based on the culture of the country as well, men are less likely to express certain feelings, for fear of not being seen as masculine, and so, this also discourages health-seeking behavior, especially for mental and reproductive health. It is these social barriers to health that must be addressed on International Men’s Day, to ensure that the fathers, brothers, sons and uncles of the country lead healthy and happy lives.
It is recommended that men have, at a minimum, the following health check-ups:
- Yearly, Routine Check-up- This should be done at all ages. These are the most likely to catch any changes or reduction in health status, and so there can be interventions as necessary. This includes weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, eyesight, cholesterol and other vital signs.
- Prostate Check- This may be conducted annually starting at age 50, or lower if at a higher risk than average.
- Colon Check- This may be conducted every two years starting at the age of 50, and lower if at a higher risk than average.
The NWRHA holds men’s health in the highest of regards, and so, launched its Men’s Health Clinic at Petit Valley Health Centre on July 13th 2019, where men and their unique health needs were the focus. The NWHRA also has many services available at its health institutions, including PSA Testing. Beyond the NWRHA services, we encourage all men and women, to talk openly about health issues, especially mental health issues, and take your health into your own hands.