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Men's Health

Men and boys in the United States are faring worse than their female counterparts on many significant measures of health.

For more than 50 years, American males have experienced higher death rates than women for the nation's topic killers - heart disease, cancer, and stroke. U.S. males are also more likely than U.S. females to be murdered, commit suicide, or suffer a fatal workplace injury, according to data compiled for Men's Health: A Report on Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Health Disparities in Cambridge (PDF), a report released in June 2008 by the Cambridge Public Health Department. These national trends are reflected locally in Cambridge, Mass.

Key findings:

  • The overall death rate* for Cambridge males is 34% higher than for Cambridge females.
  • Cambridge males have higher death rates* than females for heart disease and cancer, and higher infection rates for HIV/AIDS.
  • While both sexes experience a similar rate* of death from stroke and diabetes, Cambridge males are hospitalized for these diseases at a higher rate than Cambridge females.
  • Within the city's male population, the death rate* for black males is 9% higher than for white males, 78% higher than for Hispanic males, and 327% higher than for Asian males.
                           *all mortality rates are age-adjusted

"There is not just one single factor that can explain the mortality gap between men and women or among different groups of men," said Claude-Alix Jacob, director of the Cambridge Public Health Department. "Many causes contribute to these health disparities."

Jacob cited as examples the fact that American males are more likely than females to engage in health-endangering behaviors like cigarette smoking and binge drinking. U.S. men are also more likely than women to be employed in dangerous occupations like commercial fishing, construction, and trucking. Men are also somewhat less likely than women to have health insurance, and even those who are insured may not seek medical care when necessary.

Like many other communities, Cambridge has sought to understand and eliminate health disparities among different groups of people. For more than 15 years, public health and civic leaders in Cambridge had been concerned about the health challenges faced by men, especially African-American men and black male immigrants. In 1993, The Cambridge Hospital launched what is now called the Men of Color Health Initiative (MOCHI). The cornerstone of MOCHI is the annual Hoops 'N Health sports tournament and health education fair, which is held during Men's Health Month in June. This year's event was held on Saturday, June 21, and drew more than 1,000 people.

In October 2007, the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House, Cambridge Health Alliance, and Cambridge Family YMCA received a three-year, $750,000 grant from the federal Office of Minority Health to reduce health disparities among men of color. The same month, the Cambridge Public Health Department received a three-year, $94,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to expand health outreach efforts and develop a strategic plan in collaboration with the Men of Color Task Force, a local advisory group involved in promoting the health of men of color.

The two grants are supporting a broader health disparities initiative in Cambridge called The Men's League: A Community Health Partnership for Men, which engages participants in wellness activities and connects them to health care services. The Men's Health League hosted a father and son breakfast on May 31, which served as the official kickoff of Men's Health Month as well as the overall initiative, and opened the Fit for Life program to Cambridge men in partnership with the Cambridge Family YMCA.

Posted on June 30, 2008