MEN TOUGH IT OUT

Women are more likely than men to check with their doc once a year

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jodi-Ann Gilpin Gleaner Writer

WHEN IT comes to health care, De­vaughn Colquhoun is a typ­i­cal Ja­maican male. He sees a doc­tor only when he ab­so­lutely has to. “I know how I feel,” said Colquhoun, a 30-year-old man­age­ment ac­coun­tant with the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force. “So un­less some­thing is very se­ri­ous or there is some­thing ir­reg­u­lar, like an is­sue with the heart, that’s when you find me go­ing to the doc­tor to find out what could go wrong.” He adds: “It’s not a fear; it’s just not pri­or­ity for me.” In­deed, Colquhoun’s at­ti­tude is borne out by poll­ster Bill John­son in a Gleaner-com­mis­sioned sur­vey on Ja­maicans’ ap­proach to per­sonal health man­age­ment, and the per­spec­tives on the is­land’s health-care sys­tem. It showed that women are nearly one and a half times (65 per cent to 48 per cent) more

likely than men to have a check with their doc­tor once a year.

But while women are more proac­tive about check-ups, the sur­vey, con­ducted in Septem­ber, sug­gested that Ja­maicans as a whole are not very good at it. Only 57 per cent said they see a doc­tor, even with­out an ob­vi­ous ail­ment; 41 per cent didn’t.

In the United States, a 2014 sur­vey by the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion found that 92 per cent of adult Amer­i­cans be­lieve that the an­nual check-up is im­por­tant, and 62 per cent re­ported hav­ing them.

A decade ear­lier, the Gallup polling or­gan­i­sa­tion found the same num­ber of Amer­i­cans who be­lieve these an­nual phys­i­cals to be nec­es­sary. But back then, based on the Gallup find­ings, a sub­stan­tially greater por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion – 78 per cent – ac­tu­ally trooped in for their phys­i­cals.

Such shifts may, in part, be at­trib­uted to higher med­i­cal costs, as well new guide­lines by health-care pro­fes­sion­als, who, in­stead of the old broad-brush ap­proach, in­creas­ingly pro­mote a more in­di­vid­u­alised ap­proach to screen­ing, tak­ing into ac­count risk fac­tors and based on the per­son’s health and life­style.

Like in the United States, older peo­ple are the ones more likely to have an­nual check-ups. In the Gleaner-John­son sur­vey, more than six of 10 in the 55-64 age group see their doc­tor vol­un­tar­ily at least once a year. That rises to ap­prox­i­mately 74 per cent of those in the 65-an­dover age group.

DEEPER CUL­TURAL IS­SUES

This sur­vey didn’t drill deeper into the age-gen­der ap­proaches to this topic, but the anec­do­tal in­for­ma­tion sug­gests that while the at­ti­tude of young men like Colquhoun, the po­lice ac­coun­tant, is in­flu­enced by age, there are deeper cul­tural is­sues in­volved. His fa­ther was the same way and didn’t eas­ily budge, de­spite his wife be­ing a nurse.

“My fa­ther didn’t like go­ing to the doc­tor ei­ther,” Colquhoun said. “He’s a coun­try boy. So, you find that his mother would rely on nat­u­ral reme­dies. I call my grand­mother the bush doc­tor

be­cause she will pick all sort of dif­fer­ent plants, mix it to­gether and you will be OK.”

Wen­del Abel, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at the Univer­sity of the West Indies, Mona, un­der­stands the “tough-it-out” ap­proach to health on the part of men.

“An im­por­tant part of it has to do with how we so­cialise boys,” Abel said. “Men are so­cialised to feel that they are tougher. They are so­cialised to be less nur­tur­ing, and that in­cludes nur­tur­ing of their own selves. The sup­port among men, there is this whole con­cept of in­vin­ci­bil­ity – all of these things com­bined.”

Abel said that this be­hav­iour among men is not pe­cu­liar to Ja­maica: “It is a chal­lenge that we face world­wide with men. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, world­wide, we do know that women have bet­ter health habits.”

While recog­nis­ing the greater prob­lem with men, Dr Win­ston De La Haye, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer in the is­land’s health min­istry, un­der­scores the need for cross-gen­der ini­tia­tives for

Ja­maicans to take greater per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for their health.

“It can only be through ed­u­ca­tion that we will have our ci­ti­zens un­der­stand the im­por­tance of a visit to the doc­tor,” De La Haye said. “The fact (is) that you don’t need to be sick to seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion; in­stead, take a pre­ven­ta­tive ap­proach.”

It is a les­son that Colquhoun, even as he jokes about get­ting on in age, wants to learn as his body be­gins to send him sub­tle sig­nals and re­main­ders. “I think I should take it (health care) more se­ri­ously,” he said.

“I’m get­ting up in age now. The sick­ness lasts a lit­tle longer ... . Flu, which would nor­mally last a day or two, will drag out a lit­tle longer. I feel some knee and back pain ev­ery now and then, so I get gen­tle re­minders that I am get­ting old and should be more cau­tious.”

ABEL DE LA HAYE

In this 2008 file photo, this male pa­tient waits to be treated at the Kingston Pub­lic Hos­pi­tal.

FILE

Pa­tients seated in­side a wait­ing room at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal. A re­cent Gleaner-com­mis­sioned sur­vey shows that women are more likely than men to check with their doc­tor once a year.

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