A recent a White House Dialogue on Men’s Health brought together experts on men’s health from government, professional sports, nonprofit organizations, and health care, who together raised awareness of the need for increased focus on men’s health.
Bob GattyWashington-It was foggy and overcast on Sept. 25th, 2000 in San Francisco. For 40 minutes, Kevin Hines, crying, paced back and forth on the Golden Gate Bridge high above the water, hoping that just one person would look at him and ask if something was wrong and could they help.
Then, he found a spot on the bridge from which he would jump. He catapulted himself into the water, immediately realizing he had made the worst mistake of his life; that he didn’t want to die.
But, Hines told attendees at a White House Dialogue on Men’s Health meeting on Jan. 8th, 2016, three miracles occurred that day.
First, a woman driving by saw him jump and called a friend in the Coast Guard. Soon after Hines surfaced after plunging into the water more than 70 feet deep below the surface, help arrived.
Second, as he was nearly drowned and broken from slamming into the water, a sea lion emerged beneath Hines, helping him stay on the surface until he could be rescued. And third, as he arrived at the hospital, a world-renowned neurosurgeon who just happened to stay an extra hour at work operated and fixed Hines’ broken back, preserving his ability to walk and run.
Today, Hines, who suffers from bipolar disorder, still contemplates suicide almost daily. But he has sought and received help and is now working on a new film, “Cracked, Not Broken.”
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“I am trying to get men from darkness to the light,” he told his White House audience.
Urologist Paul Turek, MD, who is director of the Turek Clinic in San Francisco and was a participant in the White House Dialogue, said Hines’ presentation was “riveting.” He is a classic example, said Dr. Turek, of men who need medical help but often do not find it.
“Four out of five suicides are male,” said Dr. Turek.
The White House conference brought together experts on men’s health from government, professional sports, nonprofit organizations, and health care, who together raised awareness of the need for increased focus on men’s health. The event was organized by the Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with Men’s Health Network (MHN) and Disruptive Women in Health Care. It drew more than 200 participants.
Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson joined U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, to lead the discussion, which Dr. Turek said provided “hope… hope for boys, hope for men, hope for health care, hope that my vision is a shared one.”
The conference, he said, “was a charged environment. I’m not sure anything concrete came out of it, but it was probably the first time that stakeholders were present at such a high level of listening with federal officials. Having the surgeon general there… hopefully will lead to larger steps in the future toward making something concrete out of this initiative.”
“We were very pleased with this event and all of the excitement around advancing boys’ and men’s health,” said Brandon Leonard, director of strategic initiatives at MHN. “The stories and programs that were shared are truly inspiring, and we look forward to continuing this momentum with our federal government partners as well as all of the organizations represented and many more around the country who are dedicated to this important cause.”
MHN contends that lack of health care and overall lack of engagement among American men is contributing to a large-scale health deficit in the U.S. According to MHN, men have higher mortality rates for nine of the top 10 causes of death and die 5 years earlier than women, on average.
For the past several years, MHN has advocated establishment of an Office of Men’s Health within the federal government to coordinate health care services for men.
“That idea has been teetering, but it has never been realized,” said Dr. Turek. “It might just be that the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, urologists, non-profits, professors, sports teams getting together (such as at the White House conference) will push it over the hump. The sad fact is that men are being underserved, but this idea has never had this high level of support and overall grassroots interest.”
Last November, the MHN commented on a proposed Department of Health and Human Services rule on nondiscrimination within the Affordable Care Act (ACA), contending that the ACA fails to address serious health concerns affecting men.
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MHN told HHS that males are being excluded from a number of health coverage benefits afforded to females by the ACA, including lack of access to preventive services, contraception, and sexual health services, as well as comparable access to health screenings.
Those topics were part of the discussion at the White House meeting, and Dr. Turek said stakeholders who attended continued to discuss the need for an Office of Men’s Health even after the meeting concluded. Whether this discussion and the White House conference leads to action on this and other initiatives focused on men’s health remains to be seen.
“If you want to take great care of men, you need to engage them, and to engage them, you need to listen,” Dr. Turek explained. “My office visits begin with listening, not talking.”