The health of American boys and men – particularly those of color – remains a significant, long-standing public health challenge. Few social problems in our society affect so many people yet are so often overlooked. Disparities in health and wellness among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) men compared to women and other U.S. racial and ethnic groups on some measures are extreme and the evidence suggests the gap is worsening.
Based on this awareness, a growing group of interested stakeholders from all levels of American society coordinated by the Men's Health Network is embracing the notion that solving health disparities among males demands a concerted effort. Doing so now is even more urgent in light of the health reform spawned by the Affordable Care Act and a recent study of minority men's health .
Several specific causes of death contribute to the higher mortality rates of AI/AN males compared to AI/AN females. The following are noteworthy among the AI/AN population for some age groups:
The reasons for the health, well-being and life expectancy disparities are complex and remain poorly understood. A recent comprehensive review of the literature of programs and intervention studies specifically targeting AI/AN males revealed a virtual absence of data. The research that would lead us to better understand the causes of inequality, and test approaches to address them, has simply not been undertaken. Existing evidence suggests that social determinants such as historical trauma, loss of social roles and cultural connection, poverty and unemployment may have greater adverse health effects on AI/AN men than women. But 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 forward.
Despite this discouraging history, now is the most opportune time to address AI/AN male health disparities and break the cycle of suffering.
The first step to realizing these outcomes is increasing awareness. Toward this goal, a two-pronged media approach is being coordinated under the auspices of the Men's Health Network - beginning with the production of a series of awareness-building Webinars targeting public health professionals and interested stakeholders at all levels. Entitled Partnering for Wellness: Charting a Course to Hope, Healing, and Health for Native Males and Their Families, the initial Webinar of this series will be presented during Men's Health Month on June 13 at 1 p.m., and will provide an overview of the magnitude and nature AI/AN male health disparities. Follow-up Webinars will explore more specific topic areas relating to the health disparities of Native Males (including Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders), outline emerging best practices, explore opportunities to systematically target and test approaches to reach Native males more effectively, and identify needed advocacy.
Join us for the June 13 webinar , Partnering for Wellness: Charting a Course to Hope, Healing, and Health for Native Males and Their Families. No pre-registration is necessary.
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Leo Nolan has more than 40 years experience in Indian health care and education. He retired from IHS in 2011 after 25 years the last 12 as the external affairs director. He is an enrolled member of the St. Regis Mohawk tribe and grew up at the territory of the Onondaga Nation.