Black Men’s Self-Care Tips – Beat America’s Premature Death Risks
By Reginald Williams,
Special at AFRO
AZ Matthews learned he had stage 3 cancer. Then he committed suicide. He was 29 years old.
Shawn Byers was enjoying a night out at his girlfriend’s house. After dinner, Shawn got sick. He asked his girlfriend to call 9-1-1. Shortly after EMS arrived, Byers died. He was 54 years old.
Ricky Platt died on the operating table. His heart failed. He was 65 years old.
Matthews, Byers and Platt are three black men whose lifespans confirm the data that reporting black men die prematurely. Black men have the lowest life expectancy of any demographic group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, black men die four years earlier than white men and seven years earlier than black women.
Self-reported suicide attempts by black teens increased by more than 50% between 1991 and 2017. In 2014, 80% of suicide deaths in the black community were male. The premature death of black men is a public health problem.
Austin Frakt, an associate professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, notes, “Black men experience the worst health outcomes of any other demographic, and at age 45, black men have a life expectancy three years lower than that of non-Hispanic men. White man.”
A black man’s health inequities are compounded by the persistent microaggressions that black men experience, causing them to often resort to violence.
The violence that erupts in communities of color often drives angry and unstable young black men into retaliatory acts, a contributing factor in the unfortunate deaths of black men.
“Violence-Related Disparities Experienced by Black Youth and Young Adults,” a 2018 research article reports that black teens are at “higher risk for violence,” including homicide. According to the CDC, black men and boys between the ages of 15 and 34 make up 2% of the population but account for 37% of homicides nationwide.
Beyond the devastation suffered by violence, particularly gun violence, men’s unwavering determination to live by an “I’m fine” paradigm has a component that also contributes to loss of life.
According to Roland Thorpe, Jr., Ph.D., MS, professor of Health Behavior and Society and founding director of the Men’s Health Research Program, black men distrust the medical system.
“The first time we go to the doctor, we’re in the ER because we didn’t go for the annual checkups,” Thorpe said.
Black men’s mistrust of the medical system runs deep. The Tuskegee experiment continues to fuel their mistrust. Conducted in 1932, the United States Public Health Service enlisted approximately 600 African American men to participate in the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.
During this experiment, which began in 1932 according to CDC records, medical professionals used black men to see how untreated syphilis would attack the body. Despite having a cure for venereal disease, the government-backed doctors watched Black suffer and die.
Ninety years later, research shows that black men continue to receive substandard medical care. The National Academy of Medicine reports that “the
] receive lower quality health care than whites
]– even when insurance status, income, age and severity of conditions are comparable. The pandemic continued to reveal the health of black men as black men died of COVID at a rate that surpassed all other groups.
If black men want to reverse these declining health trends, they must use several tactics. First, black men need to take control of their health. Change the corrosive narrative of what it means to be a man and what it takes to be healthy. This mindset that embraces easily, big boys don’t cry, or I’m strong, or I’m fine are ideologies that make black men sick.
“Black men need to break the fear of going to the doctor and all the stigmas and taboos associated with their health care,” said Dr. Roderick E. Wellington, Ed.D, NCC, LCPC.
“It is essential that we engage and educate ourselves about our health.”
Black men need to become aware and intentional about what they place in their bodies. “Simply put, we need to give our bodies more respect,” said Carlos Adams, BSN (male doula) and chef.
“We eat because it’s good. We eat because we are hungry or because we attend social events that offer food, but we have never been taught that eating to empower us on a cellular level is actually the purpose of eating at all.
Much of health, good or bad, is contained in what we eat. Most home-stored foods are fortified with preservatives that preserve the food while slowly creating internal depletion. Enriched flour, high fructose corn syrup, gums, starches, acids, and sodium benzoate are just some of the ingredients in foods that lead to diabetes, hypertension, and acute mental illness. “We really need to start making the health of our cells a priority,” Adams argues.
David, Dr Wellington’s 76-year-old brother, walks every day, eats healthy and is six years older than the average age of a black man. David cares about his health not for his quality of life but for his quality of death. “When I die I want it to be peaceful,” David said.
For more improved health outcomes, black men should also seek the services of black doctors.
“Black men seen by black doctors accepted increasingly more invasive preventive services than those seen by non-black doctors. And that effect seemed to be driven by better communication and greater trust,” writes Nicole Torres, author of Having a Black Doctor Leads Black Men to Receive More Effective Care,
Black men must also be dogmatic in conducting their own health research and collaborating with their doctors. Their doctor is a source of information, not the only source of information.
Reginald Williams is the author of “A Marginalized Voice: Devalued, Dismissed, Disenfranchised & Demonized”. Please email [email protected] or visit amarginalizedvoice.com for more information.
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