“On the down low” is a slang expression, meaning something (e.g. sexual orientation) is being kept secret. It was not long ago when breast cancer was seldom discussed; women suffered silently and died young, since little funding was allocated for research. Now breast cancer research is one of the most visible charitable causes. But there are other issues not being discussed, even by those most adversely impacted by the silence. Men’s health–mental and physical–remains on the down low, particularly among men of color. On Nov. 7, 2015, an attempt was made to break the silence with the Arizona Men’s Health & Wellness Expo (http://www.azmenshealth.com).
This was the third Expo. It was hosted by the Sphinx Educational Fund of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and Mayo Clinic. It was held at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. This crusade to get information to those who need it and encourage them to use it are two young Alpha members–Dr. Andre Watkins and Myron Douglass. Both are committed and, as most African-Americans, have seen too many friends and relatives die prematurely.
The conference had an excellent line-up of speakers from technical and social perspectives. Arizona Diamondback CEO Derrick Hall provided an inspiring video about the need for men to get prostate cancer check-ups. Dr George Brooks discussed the importance of good nutrition and benefits of urban gardens. Raymond Scott gave moving testimony about his battle with kidney disease. Dr Jean-Luc Le Provost and Mayo doctors, like Dr. Charles Adler, gave excellent technical talks about research on Altzheimer’s, heart diseases and other increasingly common illnesses. There were small group talks on subjects, like AID/HIV, prostate cancer, and how women can persuade men to visit doctors. Vendors included organizations like Colonial Life and AARP. Keynote speaker Justin Bayless discussed the stigma still re: seeking help for mental problems.
Ironically it is not just lack of information or resources available contributing to the poor health statistics in Arizona. The challenge is to get men to take advantage of what is known and available. People, like Fred Taylor, have been providing outstanding information and assistance re: prostate cancer. There are a few legitimate concerns (e.g., expenses, genetics, malpractices against minority men), but many excuses (e.g., ego, fear, too busy, indifference, etc) that keep men away from conference like this and from regular check-ups.
With the implementation of healthcare reform, great advances in diagnosis and treatment, increased marketing and sources of information, like the AZ Men’s Expo, the onus has to change from blaming society to men being more assertive about taking care of their own health.