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How about celebrating Father’s Day with a trip to the family physician? If your dad is anything like the rest of the country’s men, he probably hates asking for help, showing weakness, or going to the doctor’s. A new public health initiative is hoping to change that with a series of ads—and a Father’s Day e-card—that remind men not so subtly that they’re going to die: Happy Father’s Day, Dad! If you want to be around this time next year, how about hitting up your doctor for some quality one-on-one time?
Though the ads are darkly humorous, the message behind them is not. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited the doctor in the past year. Black and Hispanic men are even worse at getting their annual checkups. Not visiting their doctor could be the reason why men are 30 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for preventable conditions. Those include congestive heart failure, diabetes complications and pneumonia that could be prevented with a vaccine.
One of the ads features a salesperson telling a father and his son that he doesn’t need to buy an extended warranty for his new TV, because he won’t be around long enough to need it. “You failed to get the health test you needed at the doctor that would have detected a disease early enough where it could have been treated. So you won’t be around in two years to see him grow up, which means the warranty would be useless. Okay? Sign here please.”
If the ads don’t persuade men to start taking their healthcare seriously, the AHRQ hopes family members who see the ads will.
According to Shantanu Nundy, MD, staff physician at the University of Chicago Medical Center and author of Stay Healthy at Every Age: What Your Doctor Wants You to Know, establishing a relationship with a provider when you’re still healthy can minimize your risk of developing chronic diseases down the line. Cancer, as well as warning signs of heart disease and diabetes, can crop up as early as your 40s, or even younger. If you’re going to the doctor regularly, there’s a much better chance of catching and treating it. Basically, your odds of survival go up.
Knowing your medical history is also key. “The better you know your family history, the better you’ll be able to personalize your risk-reduction strategy,” says Nundy. Your doctor then knows what to look out for, what tests to perform, and he or she can help you work on an action plan for a healthier lifestyle.
“We do our research when shopping for a new car or computer,” says Nundy. “We should also be educating ourselves about our own health.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tells us that the most important things we can do to stay healthy are to get all of our recommended health screenings, don’t smoke, engage in physical activity, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and take any medication as prescribed by our physicians. They even offer a checklist of tests we should be getting at every age.
Taking care of your body is no different from taking care of your shiny new Prius. Because we want it to last, we take our car in for regular oil changes and tune-ups; and we check our tires for air. We do everything we can to minimize the chances of something going wrong so we can keep it for as long as possible. The body is no different. Give it the right fuel, take it in for diagnostic check-ups, and you’ll keep your engine purring for a long time. Or you can neglect your body, cross your fingers and hope you don’t break down—or go completely kaput—before you even have a chance to meet your grandkids.
Do the men in your life go to the doctor as often as they should? Chime in below.