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Inconsistent access to a healthcare provider (HCP), which can lead to advanced morbidity, is an oft-cited barrier to advancing health. Extensive review of the literature consistently suggests men are far less likely to engage within the healthcare system. This is particularly problematic pertaining to preventive services. As many health conditions are preventable and/or treatable in earlier stages, delay in screening and treatment often leads to long-term negative health outcomes. Lack of early and frequent preventive healthcare (e.g. primordial, primary, and secondary prevention) may even be perceived as “normative” where poorer health outcomes in males are expected.1 In fact, some evidence demonstrates a clear connection that seeking help via healthcare runs contrary to masculinity and dominant masculine principles, such as being strong/sturdy, working through pain, avoiding weakness or anything perceived as feminine, among other psychosocial phenomena.2,3
Changing healthcare “culture” concerning the care of men (i.e. gender-sensitive care) may provide a salient avenue to encourage more consistent and preventive contact or “touch points” in the patient-provider dynamic. There is a need to understand how social norms and practices in healthcare and medical settings can be effectively leveraged to address life-long male health outcomes versus focusing on late(r)-stage palliative care.
The purpose of this article is to advance dialogue concerning practical considerations, such as resources (e.g. time, money) and methods (e.g. practitioners considering whether men respond best to immediate efforts to establish rapport versus a traditional power-based dynamic during the medical interaction) so as to inform gender-sensitive touchpoints in the healthcare of men. Location and types of facilities where men are willing to seek care (preventative or palliative) also need to be considered in a holistic, gender-sensitive patient-provider model of healthcare. Implications, policies, and evidence-based practical strategies for leveraging medical education, prevention programming, proper and improper recognition and management, and long-term treatment are presented and discussed with the practitioner in mind.
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