Guns are more deadly for white men in their own hands and for black men when held by someone else.
That's just one of the disparities in the Tennessee Men's Health Report, which reveals men in this state die differently depending upon the color of their skin and where they live. The biannual report by Meharry Medical College, the Tennessee Department of Health and Vanderbilt University looks at several aspects to determine how well men are taking care of themselves and uses a simple A-to-F scoring system.
"The biggest thing to me that came out in the 2014 Tennessee Men's Health Report Card was the need to think about the disparities among men within this state," said Vanderbilt Professor Derek Griffith, who chaired the report committee. "Black, white and Hispanic men tended to have different health profiles and I don't think we appreciated that to the degree that this document has illustrated."
This year's report also exposed mysteries. Its authors are at a loss to explain why cancer death rates are higher in Northwest Tennessee than other regions. The report also showed that men who live in the Mid-Cumberland region, which includes Nashville, were much less likely to die of heart disease than men who live in the Upper Cumberland or western areas of the state.
Hispanic men got better grades than white men or black men in most categories when death certificate data was analyzed. Hispanic men got A's for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, prostate cancer, lung cancer, unintentional injuries, accidental poisonings and homicides. However, the report also revealed that Hispanic men need to become more aware about protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. They received an F for new cases of HIV/AIDS. So did black men. White men got an A in this category.
White men received a D for diabetes as a contributing cause of death, while black men received an F. The same scenario occurred with colon cancer. Hispanic men received a D for colon cancer deaths.
Black men fared much worse than either whites or blacks in prostate cancer deaths, scoring an F while whites and Hispanics got A's.
Whites got an F for suicides, while blacks and Hispanics scored a C in this category.
Blacks got an F for homicides, while whites scored a B and Hispanics scored an A.
Both blacks and whites got F's for chronic liver disease, while Hispanics received a C.
"Overall, heart disease and cancer are the top two causes of death for men in Tennessee at 24.7 percent and 24.4 percent, respectively," said Dr. Duane T. Smoot with Meharry Medical College. "The state has been doing well with regard to heart disease, as the death rates have been declining. However, with regard to cancer, the state is not doing that well, and we continue to have significantly more African-American men than white and Hispanic men dying from cancer."
Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner noted that many of these diseases can be prevented with lifestyle changes.
"We have to continue to work together and focus attention on lifestyles and lifestyle changes that keep us as healthy and as fit as we can be to make the most of our time, reduce the burden of preventable health issues and detect and address health issues early," Dreyzhener said. "Start now."
The Governor's Foundation on Health and Wellness is working toward spurring men to make lifestyle changes.