Fred Green, left, works out on an elliptical trainer as William Johnson rides a bike Monday at Hadley Park Community Center in Nashville. / Sanford Myers / The Tennessean
By Tom Wilemon, the Tennessean
Too many men are smoking, getting fatter and catching syphilis.
More are being diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure.
But their death rates from heart disease and stroke are on the decline.
2012 Tennessee Men's Health Report Card, released today, takes a
comprehensive look at threats to men's longevity, ranging from cancer to
homicide. The report measures how Tennessee men compare to national
health goals and translates statistics into easy-to-understand grades.
The men flunked in multiple categories.
They got F's for lung
cancer deaths, head and neck cancer deaths, liver disease deaths, motor
vehicle fatalities, suicides and homicides. They got D's for stroke
deaths, deaths from all types of cancer combined, colon cancer deaths,
AIDS deaths and injury deaths.
Among the mortality measures, there
was one A. The rate of heart disease deaths for Tennessee men is lower
than the national goal. The men also got one B, in the category of
prostate cancer deaths.
Representatives of health advocacy
organizations are scheduled to discuss details of the report this
morning with officials from the Tennessee Department of Health,
Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical College.
"The goal of
this report is twofold," said Dr. David Penson of Vanderbilt, chairman
of the project. "One is to raise awareness among the citizens of
Tennessee, concerning their own health and things they can do themselves
- simple things like improving their diet, more physical activity,
stopping smoking and even simple things like remembering to snap your
belt when you get in the car."
The other goal is to give advocacy organizations the information they need to promote policy changes and action plans, he said.
22 percent of men in Tennessee smoke, while 9 percent dip or chew
tobacco - behaviors that lead to cancers of the lung, head and neck.
more men in this state are obese or overweight than fit. The percentage
who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure increased from 28.4
percent to 35.1 percent from 2005 to 2010. The diabetes rate increased
from 8.6 percent to 11 percent.
"Only 27 percent of the guys in Tennessee have a healthy weight," Penson said. "I think we can do better."
men made significant progress in some categories. They dramatically
reduced their death rate from heart disease, stroke and cancer from 2005
to 2010. During the same time period, the cancer death rate for white
African-American men are now on the good side of
the health disparity with cancer. Their odds of dying from cancer are
less than those of white men in Tennessee.
"The one thing we don't
want to do is close the disparity gap by having the non-minority men of
Tennessee have a worse health status and go in the opposite direction,"
said Dr. Charles P. Mouton, dean of the school of medicine at Meharry
Medical College. "We have to make sure that we keep moving everyone's
Mouton said the women in African-American men's
lives deserve some of the credit for their lower death rates from heart
disease and cancer. Spurred by community campaigns, such as the "Take a
Loved One to the Doctor Day" championed by nationally syndicated radio
host Tom Joyner, women made sure their husbands got physicals so health
problems were treated before they became death causes.
however, continue to be at greater risk for AIDS, and Mouton worries
about a new wave of infections based on increased syphilis cases. The
rate of infections per 100,000 men rose from 5.4 cases to 15 in
Tennessee, but it was higher among African-Americans, rising from 43.4
In 2005, the rate among whites was only 2.1, but by 2010
it more than doubled to 4.3. Syphilis is also on the rise among Hispanic
men, with the rate going from 10.4 to 13.2.
Condoms can reverse this trend, Penson said.
"Men don't need to go to a doctor to walk into Walgreens and buy a pack of condoms," Penson said.
gonorrhea cases declined in Tennessee, this sexually transmitted
disease is another reason for concern, Penson said, because strains of
it are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
The state also has a
high rate of homicide and suicide, but white men are more prone than
black men to take their lives. The suicide rate for whites is 34.9 per
100,000, while the rate for blacks is 13.3. Blacks are at greater risk
for homicide, with a rate of 42.3 percent compared to 7.2 percent for
Women could be the key to help men get healthier.
a more active role in the men in your lives' health, because clearly in
certain cases they are not doing a good job themselves," Penson said.