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Written by Michael J Rovito, Ph.D., Javier Muniz, MPH(c), & Janna Manjelievskaia, BS

On a Saturday morning in February, the Men’s Health Initiative (MHI) had a chance to speak at a congregation of Hispanic pastors in Vineland, NJ. Hispanics account for 30% of the total population of Vineland with that number continually rising. Vineland isn’t unique. The entirety of South Jersey sees similar trends. With an increased number of Hispanic families migrating to the city, there is a need to expand knowledge, awareness, and prevention of health issues particular to that population. A plethora of previous research clearly indicates that men are less likely to seek medical attention than women. One of the primary goals set forth by MHI is to promote healthy behaviors through informed decision making. Therefore, we make it our priority to reach out to all male populations to raise awareness and efficacy in practicing healthy behaviors. This particular event was important in the sense that Hispanic males, and especially immigrant Hispanics, are traditionally one of the most at-risk groups due to machismo and cultural beliefs.

The following objectives guided our presentation:

A.   Promote awareness among Latino Pastors about testicular and prostate cancer.

B.     Improve patient-provider communication.

C.     Improve familial communication about health.

D.   Discuss man’s role in society and health outcomes associated with masculinity or machismo.

E.   Encourage monthly self-examinations.

The group of men that comprised the audience included pastors of local churches from the Delaware valley, missionaries from different areas of the country, as well as church-going community members. The men ranged from 20 to 65 years of age. Although many of them were bilingual in Spanish and English, a translator was used during the presentation.

We opened the information session with a Spanish proverb, “A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” Unfortunately, this Spanish proverb holds true for men across all cultural backgrounds. The presentation acknowledged that men’s health is an uncomfortable subject for many to discuss. When asked what role a man has, some of the answers from the audience included: protector, bread-winner and leader. A man who shows his emotions can sometimes be seen as weak. This is also the reason men are reluctant to talk about their health to their doctors or families. Some startling statistics were presented to the audience in an attempt to bring attention to the seriousness of the issue of prostate and testicular cancers. One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Prostate cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer among American men…and so on and so forth.

The need for self-examinations was stressed and a demonstration was conducted. Our message was clear: the ten seconds it takes to perform self-examination could help save your life. Although we discussed the issues surrounding TSE in terms of preventing death, MHI firmly believes the prevention behavior is indeed a positive behavior and should be promoted. The point was well-received by the audience, who asked numerous questions ranging from the frequency of self-examinations to the use of Viagra.

After the event, feedback from the audience indicated that many men felt empowered to take control of their health. They wanted to spread the message to other men within the Hispanic community. One of the main goals of the presentation was to start a dialogue between men about health issues without feeling embarrassed or weak, and it seems that goal was achieved.

It is our task and our responsibility as men’s health advocates to reach out to all males populations, not just the most convenient samples. The immigrant Hispanic population is a population in need of such services due to the acute needs of services and the cultural barriers that many times exist. The overwhelming support and thanks we received from that congregation of pastors emboldens us even more. MHI is determined to reach out to whichever population it can, whenever, and wherever. Visit us at www.menshealthinfo.org for more information on our next event.