June 16, 2021
By: Jhanae Winter
In support of men’s health awareness, doctors give their medical opinion and advice to encourage Bahamian men to better their health, supporting men’s health awareness month.
Pediatrician Kenva Fowler speaking on the importance of awareness said, “It is important because some illnesses are seen only in boys/men and it's important to screen early so as to avoid complications of untreated illness: I.e prostate cancer. Also men are not exempted from chronic illnesses such as Diabetes mellitus (DM), Hypertension etc., hence men’s health is important”.
It is necessary to have these conversations early with boys for them to become more aware of the factors that affect their health and be comfortable discussing such topics. So, when they become men they have the ability to take control of their health and not shy away from the seriousness of it.
Communication is crucial. Parents and guardians should all work together to facilitate a safe space for boys to express their thoughts, feelings, any challenges or pain they might face and not dismiss it as though it means nothing.
“Educating their sons about health and the importance of accessing health care workers also empowers our sons. Parents and guardians must be an example and demonstrate their use of the health care system”, Dr. Fowler said.
The culture of Bahamian men creates a wall around their health that is often hard to break down.
“The thought that men don't get sick easily, that 'real men don't cry', spirals into not complaining or not mentioning their medical problems leading to long term issues, and an ongoing cycle from boyhood to manhood”, Dr. Fowler said.
Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist Raleigh Butler, called this mentality two things “unfortunate and silly”.
Yet all is not lost as more men are becoming interested in male health.
Although Bahamians in general don’t take advantage of the access to healthcare, Dr. Fowler said, “In The Bahamas from the 1970s to the year 2020 life expectancy of men has increased from 63 years to 71.8 years. This could suggest an improvement to males accessing healthcare.”
According to Dr. Butler, “younger men make better choices as they are more conscious about their bodies”.
However, Dr. Fowler concludes that older men may make better choices because of their maturity and experience, however it can double as a neagtive because most older men have a tendency to be “stuck in their ways”.
Nevertheless both doctors encourage both boys and men to visit the doctors for checks and other examinations, eat healthy, reduce alcohol intake and exercise.
As Covid-19 continues to get most of the attention, there are still many non-communicable diseases that are affecting men everyday such as: DM, Hypertension, Kidney disease, Liver Disease, Colon cancer and especially Prostate cancer which occurs in men particularly after age 50.
“The Bahamian male has an aggressive type of Prostate cancer and has a genetic predisposition to the BRCA gene,” Dr. Butler said.
While the focus is on physical health, mental health can not be forgotten.
Mental illnesses such as depression and sucide have substantial rates among men as well.
“While men are not as emotional as women. Mental issues including depression and suicide are overlooked. Drugs and alcohol must also be addressed as these are also a part of male health, especially considering unemployment and other social ills,” Dr. Fowler said.
The focal point is family.
Both doctors agree that more Bahamain men should be involved in their families lives.
“Men need to take their parental responsibilities more seriously so the males in our community can feel more inclusive,” Dr. Butler said.
The family is a unit where everyone should be working together said Dr. Flower. “Encouraging each other, including our males, can only improve male health access,” she said.
Dr. Fowler's advice to all men is that prevention is better than a cure.
“Care for yourself today to prevent having the complications of tomorrow. Do everything not just for you but for your loved ones also. Neglecting your health can lead to lots of expense: health is wealth,” she said.