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Prioritizing Wellness: Men’s Health Initiatives at UNC

Men’s Health includes the biological differences between sexes as well as conditions and issues that affect only men, such as prostate cancer, low testosterone levels or male-specific heart disease. It also refers to a group of health behaviors, including regular doctor visits and screening tests, practicing safer sex, and making healthy lifestyle choices such as maintaining a nutritious diet with physical activity. Despite decades of research, men remain less likely than women to seek out medical care and to adhere to preventive health measures such as vaccinations and routine check-ups. The UNC Men’s Health Program is committed to addressing these barriers through clinical care, scientific research and community outreach.

The term “men’s health” has become an important topic in both public and private healthcare, especially with the growing recognition that men are more at risk of dying from chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure than women (King et al., 2021). While the men’s higher death rates are mainly caused by non-communicable diseases and injuries, they can be partly explained by gender-specific health behavior patterns, such as low health literacy, avoidance of the healthcare system, a masculine view of illness as a sign of weakness, and adherence to traditional roles that place responsibility on men to be strong and self-sufficient.

Although some of these determinants are unique to men, many can be addressed by targeted interventions that include a broad range of healthcare providers. These can include primary and secondary prevention strategies such as lifestyle modification, physical activity and weight management, pharmacologic treatment, counseling and support services and health education. They should also be inclusive of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) men who are often excluded from standard men’s health questionnaires that fail to consider symptoms like erectile dysfunction or the side effects of urological surgeries such as penile prostheses.

Many of the articles in this special collection focus on how to promote men’s health through a multifaceted approach that includes culturally competent healthcare, leveraging strengths like positive masculinities, purpose and culture and empowering men as agents of change in their communities. For example, in a paper about developing an evidence-based intervention to reduce type 2 diabetes among American Indian and Alaska Native men, the authors discuss how their work will address historical factors that have contributed to poor health outcomes such as high rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes and incorporate strengths such as a focus on family, traditional medicine and wellness practices. This will ensure that the men in their study are able to participate successfully in an intervention that is appropriate for them and their communities.


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