Perspectives on African American Men’s Health
AbstractThe overall life expectancy of African American men significantly lags behind that of other major demographic groups in the United States. African American men as a group suffer extremely high rates of cancer, heart disease and many other conditions that cause substantial morbidity as well as premature and unnecessary loss of life. However, it is now widely accepted that lifestyle and environmental factors play a major role in shaping mortality and morbidity outcomes in the United States. As a result, substantial opportunities exist for improved health outcomes among African American men through intervention involving disease prevention education and lifestyle modifications aimed at promoting as well as maintaining health promoting behavioral change. This commentary examines key contributory factors to preventable morbidity and mortality among African American men as well as promising interventions for reducing existing health disparities. Such adverse factors include limited heath care access, relative underutilization of the healthcare system compared with other demographic groups, suboptimal overall levels of physical activity, poor dietary habits leading to excessive caloric intake, tobacco and alcohol use, substance use disorders (often with co-morbid infectious diseases), sexual risk behaviors, unrecognized mental health disorders driving high homicide and suicide rates, and greatly disproportionate rates of incarceration. Several intervention methodologies with potential for widespread replication are discussed. In addition, African American men’s health is presented as an integral but commonly overlooked aspect of African American community health, with wide ranging impact on African American women and children in terms of economics, relationships and overall health status.