Why men should be prepared for disasters: Q&A with Integris Health’s Steve Petty

On June 30th, 2014, posted in: News by
June is Men’s Health Month, a great time to remind American men and boys that they need to be prepared for emergencies. Steve Petty is director of community health improvement for Integris Health, Oklahoma’s largest hospital network, and administrative director of the network’s Men’s Health University, a health screening event for men. Check out what Petty, who is a member of APHA’s Men’s Health Caucus and the Men’s Health Network, recommends.
APHA recently partnered with March of Dimes to promote preparedness for pregnant mothers and families with infants. How can emergency readiness specifically improve men’s health?
Personal consideration and preparation for emergencies leads to a more confident and content state of mind. Having a plan for the critical actions during an emergency improves the chance that such individuals will escape harm. The entire family unit benefits from men who engage in emergency readiness planning.
You’ve spoken of the “silent health crisis” facing American men, who live on average five years fewer than women. One reason is because men take more risks. Does this put men at greater risk during public health disasters?
The life expectancy gap between men and women is, in many cases, due to our different biological makeup, but it is also the socialization and lifestyles which highly influence health outcomes. As young boys, many are taught that big boys don’t cry, leading to the “macho man” attitude where men are expected to ignore health concerns and push through the pain.
Also, studies that have been performed to date show some variations in mortality rates during disasters. Men are more likely to suffer severe consequences psychologically, like suicide, following a disaster.
They are less likely for the most part to seek care for emotional problems and often remain symptomatic for longer periods of time when compared to women. A few studies demonstrate that one response to stress — particularly following large-scale disasters — is that men increase the frequency of risk-taking behaviors.
It is thought that the increase in such risk taking behavior might be decreased if men were encouraged to participate in debriefing or defusing activities.
Fill in the blanks for APHA’s Get Ready Blog readers and your Oklahoma City communities: “I pledge to help men prepare for emergencies by ________”
I have so many recommendations here, including:
• considering how we can promote emergency preparedness among men in the community;
• identifying “at risk” men following community disasters and providing access to counseling and support activities;
• providing education and operational training for emergency health care providers, community members and other major stakeholders regarding emergency preparedness and men;
• promoting the importance of men taking charge of their health/wellness for themselves and for the sake of their families; and
• creating awareness of the importance of regular health checkups with a physician or health care provider.
It’s also important for men — and women, for that matter — to have regular checkups, so that screening tests can detect health problems early, when they are easier to treat.
June is a great opportunity to set an appointment with your health care provider, or you can stop by one of the many health stations now found in retail settings. A great place to find the information you may need before and after that visit is the online Men’s Health Online Resource Center.
This article was originally published on the APHA Get Ready blog and can be found here.
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