My Turn: Focus on men's health and safety in June

In June, we celebrate Father’s Day, Men’s Health Month and National Safety Month. These separate observances have a common theme — we can use them as an opportunity to focus on the health of the men in our lives.

 

Men die from accidents at a rate averaging about 40 percent higher than women. These higher rates begin in infancy. Accidental deaths include car accidents, overdoses, falls, fires, poisonings, drowning and other unintentional causes.

According to NIH’s Medline Plus Men’s Health page, “Most men need to pay more attention to their health. Compared to women, men are more likely to smoke and drink, make unhealthy or risky choices and put off regular checkups and medical care. There are also health conditions that only affect men, such as prostate cancer and low testosterone. Many of the major health risks that men face — like colon cancer or heart disease — can be prevented and treated with early diagnosis. Screening tests can find diseases early, when they are easier to treat. It’s important to get the screening tests you need.”

Men could live longer and healthier lives if they would change some key behaviors. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) can assist with these behavior changes. Preventive care benefits for adults as part of the Essential Health Benefits in Marketplace plans allow men and women to get preventive care services to catch diseases in their early stages or to prevent them entirely. Services such as alcohol misuse screening and counseling, tobacco use screening and cessation interventions, immunizations, diet counseling, and colorectal cancer, cholesterol and diabetes screening, are just some of the offerings in these plans. The best present men can give themselves and their loved ones is to take care of their health.

Summer activities often begin in June, and summer safety should, too. Drowning and other outdoor accidents, including encounters with dangerous wildlife, become more likely. Taking precautions such as hiking with a buddy, swimming only in designated areas and avoiding alcohol while engaging in summer activities can prevent or minimize many accidents.

According to The Facts Hurt: A State-by-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, Alaska has the sixth highest rate of injury deaths in the U.S. Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of injury in 36 states, including Alaska.

Summer sunburns can be extremely painful and can lead to skin cancer down the road — males are less likely to use sunscreen and skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. While skin cancer is rarer in Alaska than in the rest of the country, Alaskans should still take precautions when they are outside for extended periods of time or if they visit the Lower 48 states or Hawaii.

When the weather is overly hot, everyone should drink plenty of water and take measures to keep cool. Heat is especially hard on very young children, older adults and those who are chronically ill, but it can affect anyone, especially if they exercise or work in the heat. As temperatures rise, stay well hydrated and keep an eye out for heat injuries. Last year, one Alaska location experienced a temperature of 91 degrees — several communities had temperatures in the 80s. Since most Alaskans aren’t acclimated to that kind of heat, when Alaska experiences a heat wave locals should take extra precautions to prevent heat injuries.

As June draws to a close, many people purchase and shoot off fireworks, with men sustaining about three-quarters of the fireworks-related injuries, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. When celebrating, follow safety advice from their Fireworks Information Center or better yet, attend a community fireworks display instead.

As we celebrate Father’s Day and the men in our lives, let’s ensure men are as healthy as possible as we also observe Men’s Health Month and National Safety Month.

• Susan Johnson is the regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region 10, which covers Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

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