• African American Men Experience Bad Doctor Visits


    A new University of Michigan study concluded that a majority of African-American men do not go to the doctor because visits are stressful and they don’t receive adequate information of how to make the necessary behavior and lifestyle changes.

    The 105 men in the focus group explained that simply being motivated was not enough for them to adopt healthy behaviors, but that doctors did not understand the complexity of the matter, and that in order to change their lifestyle, they had to give up other meaningful activities.

    Derek Griffith, assistant professor in the U-M School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study, said that “that’s usually not the story that’s told.

    “Too much emphasis is on the things that African American men don’t do, rather than exploring why they don’t do them.

    “The reality is that many men want to adopt healthier lifestyles but face significant challenges beyond health insurance and the cost of care.

    “They are concerned about their health and are more knowledgeable about the changes they need to make than they are often given credit for,” added Griffith.

    The majority of the study participants, when they did go to the doctor, they disliked the tone that was used with them, and the only reason for which they went, was because they were seeking test results or their family encouraged them to go.

    The men said they knew they had to lose weight, change their eating habits and become more physically active, before the doctor told them so.

    What they expected the doctor to do was to help them find a way of doing so, without sacrificing the time they spent with spouses and children, but most of them were disappointed.

    African-American men are more likely to suffer from undiagnosed chronic disease, and they also die an average of seven years earlier than men in other ethnic groups.

    To see if the results of their study apply to the general US African-American male population, Griffith and his colleagues at the Center on Men’s Health Disparities, housed at the U-M SPH, conducted 14 focus groups with urban, middle-aged African American men in the Midwest.

    These results confirmed the need for physicians to give practical information, resources and support to help men change their lifestyles and adopt medication regimens, without interfering with their responsibilities to family and community.

    Also, when doctors will understand these needs, African-American men will become more willing to go see them and follow their medical recommendations.

    Julie Ober Allen and Katie Gunter of U-M SPH are co-authors of the study.

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