As a woman working for Men’s Health Network, I regularly engage with women around the topic of men’s health. It’s recognized that women play a big role in men’s health. We are the health navigators for the family, taking the kids to the doctor for their regular appointments, encouraging our partners to go to the doctor when they are sick, caring for and worrying about our aging parents and making sure that they are getting the proper care they need. We’re also working full-time jobs, balancing our professional and personal lives. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for us to maintain our own physical or—more importantly—mental health.
This is where the men in our lives can help!
To start with, guys, you need to start taking more responsibility for your own health care needs: Make appointments for your annual exams (i.e. annual wellness visits, prostate exams, blood pressure screenings, etc.) Doing this is good for you, good for your kids, and good for the women in your life—because all of us want you to live a long, healthy life.
Second, in much the same way as we encourage you to take better care of yourself, we need your help to keep us on track and healthy. In honor of National Women’s Health Week, an effort from the Office on Women’s Health from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, here are few things you—the men we love most in the world—really need to know about women’s health.
As we get older, the definition of “health” changes for us. Each decade brings with it new opportunities but also new stresses. As partners, we can get through it together, making life a little easier for whichever of us gets “news.”
In our 20s, we need to be encouraged to get our well-woman exam, an annual free visit with our healthcare provider. We’re very active during this time of our lives, we’re in school working toward our futures, holding internship after internship, and starting our careers. We know that we need to be getting exercise and eating right, but sometimes we just don’t have the time. We’re learning more about ourselves and our bodies. We’re dating, but may not yet be thinking about marriage or a family, so it’s important for us to have conversations with our partners to protect each other from unwanted pregnancy and preventable STDs.
In our 30s, we may start thinking about starting our own families, in part because we’re seeing friends and colleagues going through those changes in life. Nutrition plays an even bigger role for us and our changing bodies. Cervical cancer screenings are probably more frequent for us, and we can really use your support in encouraging healthier lifestyle activities—especially ones we can do together.
Entering our 40s, we’re thinking about our moms and grandmothers. Our bodies are changing even more, and we’re experiencing the same things mom was when she was in her 40s. As our partner, we need your support. Some of us are having children and others are experiencing “the change.” Our annual wellness visits now turn more towards screenings for cancers. Human papillomavirus (HPV), breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other health risks aren’t easy to deal with on our own. We need you to be around for the conversation, good or bad. That ear or shoulder you provide plays a huge part in comforting us.
In our 50s, those changes keep on coming. We’ve always wanted a partner to connect with and talk to, but, (the older we get, the greater that need becomes—and you’re still our “go to guy.” The children are growing up and may be headed to college soon, which means it may be just the two of us again. But we have a lot to (re)learn about each other, because, after all these years, people change.
Of course, we’re not the only ones who are changing. You should be getting regular prostate screenings, and may be experiencing “male menopause.” We’re here to support you, as we always have. But we need your support, too, even if we say we’re “fine” (or don’t say anything at all ).
This Women’s Health Week, encourage the woman in your life to do something for her health. Accompany her to her appointment. Talk to her about what’s going on in her life that might be stressing her out. Give her a “mental health day” where you take over everything she typically does — household chores, kids, and pets. That welcome break will go a long way toward helping her be the best woman she can be—for herself, her family, and for you!
Ana Fadich, MPH, CHES is the Vice President of Men’s Health Network, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to reach men and their families with health awareness and disease prevention programs where they live, work, play, and pray.