From Men’s Health Network: A Vision for Wellness and Health Equity for American Indian and Alaskan Native Boys and Men

This month, we recognize and appreciate fathers and all men who are positive examples in their community. We know Fathers play a crucial role in the cognitive, social, and emotional development of their children and that children become much better socially and emotionally developed in homes where fathers are engaged, available, and responsible. Men’s Health Month promotes awareness for men’s health disparities and DBMHS encourages all men to get regular check-ups and seek help if needed.

According to Navajo Mortality Report (NN EPI) reports; suicide mortality rate per 100,000 people for years (age adjusted) 2006-2009: Suicide was the 5th leading cause of death for males and the 15th leading cause of death for females. According to IHS service population data, life expectancy for AI/AN males was 69.4 years compared to 75.8 years for AI/AN females. Even larger gender differences were evident in overall mortality rates among the entire IHS service population during 2004-2006.

Several specific causes of death contribute to the higher mortality rates of AI/AN males compared to females. Males experience death rates two to five times greater than females for suicide, HIV/AIDS, homicide, unintentional injuries, diabetes, firearm injury, and alcohol-related deaths. Males experience death rates 10 to 50 percent higher than females for cancer, heart disease, and liver disease. Perhaps the most tragic and disturbing of all disparities are the extremely high rates of suicide among AI/AN males for the age groups ranging from adolescents to middle age.

Several of the CDC gender-specific analysis revealed that AI/AN are the only ethnic group where males experience higher psychological distress than females concerning feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Yet, despite multiple physical ad behavioral health problems, AI/AN men utilize health services significantly less frequently than the women. This is attributed to the lack of support to increase health literacy among the men, inadequate cultural competence within the health care systems and other factors.

The reasons for the health, well-being, and life expectancy disparities are complex and remain poorly understood due to absence of data for AI/AN men. Existing evidence suggest that social determinants such as historical trauma, loss of social roles and cultural connection, poverty, and employment may have greater adverse health affects on men than women. To date, no effective, overarching efforts to study the root causes and develop AI.AN male-focused interventions to support better health outcomes have been put forth.

It is important for health agencies and organizations work to support the development of strategies and activities focused on two main areas: 1. Increase acess and quality to critical primary health services for prevention and control of chronic diseases; and 2. Targeting recognized social determinants of health (positive and negative) and altering their health effects through efforts that address hope, healing, parenthood, and wellness for AI/AN males and their families. The first step to realizing these outcomes is increasing awareness.

Remember, if you or anyone you know need assistance or someone to talk to, call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

For more information, visit http://menshealthlibrary.com.