Health is Wealth and this work could not be more important…. Men’s lives depend on it.
By Kevin Brown, Lazarex Cancer Wellness HUB Neighborhood Health Ambassador
As students and teachers around us begin another school year – I too am beginning an annual educational effort of my own – talking to men about their health.
I hold monthly coffee chats for men in the Promise Zone area of Philadelphia, an area with “deep poverty where people have lacked the resources and supports to break the cycle of poverty and join the middle class.” Every year – from September to May, on the 2nd Tuesday of every month – you’ll find me in a local coffee shop where as many as 20-40 men of all ages join me. We come together to identify problems in our lives and the community and to create solutions that work for us all. Being proactive about health is one issue that frequently comes up.
I create spaces where men have a place to talk about their health and their health concerns. I focus on neighborhoods where thinking about health is considered a luxury where people do not have time, knowledge or skills to reduce risk and improve their health, lifestyles and possibly, their financial situation. As far as I’m concerned – everything I discuss with men in this community falls under the category of health and wellness. Whether we’re talking reentry after incarceration, housing, food insecurity, mental health challenges and more – it all is essentially a wellness issue. That’s of course especially true when it comes to cancer risk. I also work through the Lazarex Cancer Wellness HUB as a neighborhood health ambassador find new ways to talk with men about their health and cancer risk.
It’s vitally important that we raise awareness of the importance of men and boys prioritizing their health. Going to the doctor, regularly getting their screenings and adopting new and different habits that reduce cancer risk and improve their health. We as men have to decide to move beyond our bad experiences in healthcare, fear and decide to take action and not ignore it or let health problems linger. I’m especially interested in increasing awareness about colon cancer. According to WebMD, Black men are 24% more likely than white men to get colorectal cancer and 47% more likely to die. With statistics like that – we have got to talk about it. We have to make sure people are aware and most importantly – that they know how to screen for it and where to go for treatment if it comes to that.
As Black men we have to learn to not only talk to each other about our health but seek help from the experts. I’m not sure that anyone likes to go to the doctor but we have to make it a priority. We have to become active participants in our health, and stop letting our negative attitudes about going to the doctor, keep us from achieving our health goals
Building awareness is an important way to improve the health of people in my community. I believe these efforts are most successful when you meet people where they are. That means more of us need to be in the communities and talking with people, understanding what they need and providing the information that they ask for in a way that makes sense to them so they can create change in not only their lives, but their families as well. It’s not about what we think people need but what they actually need. I figure that out through conversations. There’s no way around it, you have to talk to people. That’s long been my motto. Lazarex Cancer Foundation’s Cancer Wellness HUB works well with my platform, and together we can have positive impacts in my communities to reduce cancer risk and improve health outcomes.
So whoever you are and wherever you live – I urge you to have a conversation with the men in your life. Talk about their health. Ask questions. Find out what they know about cancer screenings and prevention, when they last saw a doctor, and what they’re following up to do in their own lives.
Health is Wealth and this work could not be important…. Men’s lives depend on it.
To learn more about Lazarex Cancer Wellness HUBS in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, visit Lazarex.org.