It’s hard enough to get a man to roll over on his side when he’s sleep to stop his snoring. Now you’re asking a fully woke Black man to lie on his side while he’s conscious and allow somebody he doesn’t know to stick a finger up his butt for a prostate exam? Good luck with that one. We’re kings of the phrase “I’m aight” while the women in our lives are screaming, “Babe, why don’t you go get that checked out ? It’s been three months now.” Men don’t like going to the doctor unless we absolutely have to. That dissonance gets especially greater when there are major check ups on the horizon such as prostate and colon cancer screenings.
- I’m too busy to go
- I’m afraid to find out what might be wrong
- I don’t want to get uncomfortable body exams
Dr. Michele Reed is a board certified family medicine physician who has done tremendous work surrounding the prevention of chronic diseases in the Black community. She provides insight into the top reasons why Black men don’t go to the doctor for major health screenings.
1. Stigma of Having a Disease
We would rather limp than get an ankle brace. Men don’t want to feel or appear weak in any capacity. The stigma of “having something” is too great often for our Black men who are constantly labeled in society already. In addition to being Black, male, this age, this weight, from this place, you now mean to tell me I have X,Y and Z condition? The pressure is too great for our Black men who would rather suffer in silence because of this stigma. Dr. Michele believes part of this stigma is affected by a level of shame in being diagnosed with a condition or disease. Without proper knowledge of the prevalence or nature of a condition, a man’s mind can go astray and believe that he’s done something terrible to cause his newfound condition. When in reality with proper knowledge and regular doctor visits men can understand the source of their diagnosis.
2. We Don’t Know Our Family History
Our bloodline is a gateway to the story of our health’s present and future. If your family has a history of high blood pressure it could help inform you on your next steps to either prevention or maintenance of this condition. Dr. Reed recommends talking to your family once a year about their current and past medical history to get an overview of what’s going on. Awareness can provide you some prevention strategies to extend your life.
3. Lack of Awareness
It’s one thing to go to the doctor, but it’s another to be completely knowledgeable about what your doctor said. Men are often passive participants once they hit the doctor’s office. A brother can go to the doctor and still walk out clueless as to what happened during that visit. Men don’t know how real things can get until it’s too late, so it’s important to ask questions and understand completely why you’re there.
Here are Dr. Michele Reed’s tips to overcome these issues. Pass these on to the men in your care:
Find a doctor you feel comfortable with.
Guys don’t like discussing anything that’s too personal. We’re not the emotional beings that will give you our whole life story. We get especially private when it comes to our health issues. Finding a physician that you feel comfortable speaking to about your concerns is one of the most important steps to developing a healthy lifestyle. Men, we have to let that guard down. Find a doctor that makes you feel at ease.
Hold community leaders accountable for speaking up.
Anybody who has a vested interest in the community and has power needs to speak up about the importance of health screenings. Dr. Reed speaks to church leaders all the time about how their voice has the potential to affect the outcomes of their congregations. She believes that if you can get them to tithe, fast and volunteer their time, they’ll also workout and treat their bodies as temples as well.
Stop being a guinea pig.
Dr. Reed says that oftentimes men are too passive when we go to the doctor. Men need to start asking questions about what’s exactly going on at every step of the process during their doctor visits. If you’re unsure of something have the doctor write it down for you. Stop them and ask for clarification if they’re going too fast or speaking in medically exclusive ways.
Make it a family affair.
It’s a good idea to take a family member to the doctor with you. Dr. Reed says that bringing someone else to the table who loves you will bring out questions that you might not ask. You can’t rely on the medical summary to tell you everything!
Working out as a family can also help to improve the family’s outlook on health. Since you share the same blood, you’ll more than likely share the same medical issues. As an avid runner and member of Black Girls Run, Dr. Reed is a strong advocate of using running as a method to help fight obesity, high cholesterol and other issues that commonly affect Black men and Black people as a whole.
Don’t be afraid.
You can’t be hesitant about going to the doctor because they’re going to stick something up your butt, draw blood, etc. I know it’s uncomfortable and invasive, but it can help prolong your life and it only lasts a few minutes. Just think about it like this: women go through a lot more when they go to the doctor. If they can do it, we can do it!