Dear Healthy Men: Why do you keep writing about men’s health, when everyone knows that the health issues women face are far bigger? All you’re doing is taking money away from women’s health to give it to men.
A: There’s no
question that much can—and should—be done to improve women’s health. However,
there’s also no question that despite what “every knows,” focusing exclusively
on women’s health, as we’ve done for quite some time, ignores a far larger
problem: the very real crisis in men’s health. The facts are simple, yet stark:
• On average, men in the U.S. live shorter (by five years), sicker lives than women, dying at younger ages and in greater numbers from nine of the top 10 causes of death.
• Men account for 67% of opiate overdose deaths, over 75% of suicides, and 90% of workplace injuries and fatalities.
• Men are much more likely than women to be unemployed and less likely to have insurance.
• Boys and men engage more than females in over 30 unhealthy behaviors (alcohol use, tobacco use, overeating, etc.) that increase their risk for poor health outcomes.
• Many men and boys—particularly those with low incomes—are systematically excluded from getting care. The Affordable Care Act, for example, covers free, annual “well-woman” physical exams and screenings for STDs and mental health for women and girls, but NOT for men and boys. As a result, men and boys often don’t receive preventive care, and potentially life-threatening conditions don’t get diagnosed early, when they’re far easier to treat and/or cure.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that American males are far worse off than females, talk of women’s health crisis—as if it’s the only health crisis we have—persists. And there’s a lot of money behind that talk. In the federal government alone, there are at least five Offices of Women’s Health: at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The combined annual budgets of these Offices is in the tens of millions of dollars. In addition, the Office of Research for Women’s Health within the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—one of several research agencies focusing exclusively on women’s health—has a $5 billion annual budget.
Today, there are exactly zero offices of men’s health anywhere in the federal government, zero offices researching men’s health, and a corresponding combined budget of exactly zero dollars.
Whenever I talk about the crisis in men’s health and the need to create a federal Office of Men’s Health that would focus on the unique needs of men and boys, I hear from skeptics who accuse me, as you’ve done, of wanting to “take resources away from women’s health.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Should we be spending more on women’s health? Of course. But wouldn’t it be fair—and morally right—to spend at least as much to improve and save the lives of men and boys as we do on women and girls? Healthier men make healthier families, and healthier families make a healthier—and more prosperous—country for all of us.
While women’s health gets plenty of well-deserved attention—and money—ignoring the men’s health crisis is incredibly costly. Federal and state governments lose tens of billions in tax revenues (because men are either dead or too sick to earn taxable income) and pay out billions more to survivors (who wouldn’t be survivors if their husbands or fathers were still alive). And the overall economy loses still more billions in reduced productivity. We’ll talk more about the high cost of ignoring men’s health in a future column.
###Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay