OMH in the 106th Congress
Alarming statistics show that men's health is at great risk. The lives of hundreds of thousands of men will continue to be threatened unless more attention is placed on the growing importance of men's health issues.
Representatives Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) have joined with over 50 cosponsors to introduce HR 632, a bipartisan bill that will establish an Office of Men's Health under the Department of Health and Human Services. An identical bill is expected in the Senate. The cosponsors have also forwarded a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, asking that he support creation of this office.
This office would mirror the work of the existing Office of Women's Health, which has helped to save thousands of women's lives and has improved the lives of many more. To ensure that an Office of Men's Health is created, the bills will need support from as many members of Congress as possible.
In order to ensure that this life-saving legislation receives the co-sponsorship it needs, please write to your Representatives and Senators expressing the importance of establishing an Office of Men's Health. Your support is key in helping Congress pass this crucial legislation.
An Office of Men's Health is needed to coordinate the fragmented men's health awareness, prevention, and research efforts now being conducted by federal and state government. An Office of Men's Health, styled after the Office of Women's Health, will be well placed to coordinate outreach and awareness efforts on the federal and state levels, promote preventative health behaviors, and provide a vehicle whereby researchers on men's health can network and share information and findings.
Perhaps Representative Cunningham said it best in his June 2000 address to Congress:
Mr. Speaker, over the past 20 years Congress has devoted a great deal of time and money toward addressing the important issues facing women's health. We created an Office of Women's Health at the NIH and we have taken great strides to increase the number of women included in health studies. We have undoubtedly saved hundreds of thousands of women's lives, improved the quality of many millions more, and we have every reason to be proud.
However, we must now begin to focus on the crisis in men's health too. The simple fact is that every year hundreds of men suffer and die needless--and entirely preventable--deaths. In 1994, Congress established National Men's Health Week, the week leading up to and including Father's Day. Unfortunately, men's health is not getting any better.
I believe it is time for us to establish an Office of Men's Health. For that reason, I am introducing legislation today that will establish an Office of Men's Health at the Department of Health and Human Services to monitor, coordinate and improve men's health in America.
America needs a concerted effort to combat the problems facing men's health. This year, almost 200,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and almost 32,000 of these men will die. Of course, we cannot save all these men. Nevertheless, we could save a lot of them. While mammograms and Pap smears have dramatically reduced the death rate from breast and cervical cancers, the death rate from prostate cancer could be reduced by widespread use of a simple test called the PSA, which most of us have never heard of.
I am one of the thousands of men who have been saved by a simple PSA test. Just a little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. During my annual examination, my doctor noticed a slight elevation in the readings of a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test. However, it was only after a prostate biopsy that it was determined that I had cancer. Following the diagnosis, with my family, we decided that I should go ahead and have surgery. I am fortunate that my cancer was detected early, that I had a doctor who was familiar with PSA test results, and that I had healthcare coverage for my treatments. In my case, and in the cases of thousands of men, early detection and treatment have meant the difference between life and death.
However, prostate cancer is only a small component of the men's health crisis: men have a higher death rate than women do for every single one of the ten leading causes of death in this country. We're twice as likely to die of heart disease--the number one killer--40% more likely to die of cancer, and 20% more likely to die of a stroke. At the turn of the last century, men and women had equal life expectancies. At the turn of this one, women outlive men by 7 years.
Admittedly, the largest part of the problem is that men do not take particularly good care of themselves. Only about half as many men as women have a regular physician, for example, and overall, men make about a 30% fewer doctor visits every year than women--and that's even factoring out women's prenatal visits.
So if we got men to start going to the doctor will men start living longer? Well, it could not hurt. However, in a study published earlier this year by the Commonwealth Fund, nearly 70% of men over 40 who visited the doctor were not even asked whether they had a family history of prostate cancer. Men making less than $50,000 a year were even less likely to be asked. And 40% of men over 50--who should be getting a prostate exam every single year--were not even screened by their doctors. And going to the doctor won't do anything about the fact that four times as many men commit suicide as women, that the victims of violent crime are 75% male, that 98% of the people who work in the most dangerous jobs in this country are men, and that 94% of people who die in the workplace are men.
What can we do about this? First, we can make men's health a public priority. Just as we support public service announcements aimed at getting women to get regular mammograms and do routine self exams, we must support the same kind of campaign to get men to get regular health checkups and do routine self exams. Testicular cancer, which is the most common cancer in men under 35, is curable if caught early enough. In addition, one of the best ways to do that is to teach boys and young men to check themselves at least once a month.
As precious as life is, men--just like women--should have the benefit of as much of it as they possibly can. And because they live so much longer, women are in the unenviable position of seeing their husbands, fathers, and even their sons suffer and die prematurely.
So this year, as we approach Father's Day, let's spend some time figuring out what we can do to help men be better healthcare consumers and what we can do to give men the support and encouragement and resources they need to be the kind of fathers their kids need them to be and that they truly want to be.
(Excerpts, Congressional Record, June 14, 2000)
Obviously, men's health will continue to suffer until a centralized effort is made to close the health gender gap by improving the status of health among men and boys. The Office of Men's Health will provide that effort.
& MCDERMOTT CELEBRATE
WASHINGTON- Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego) and Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Washington) today introduced the Men's Health Act. This legislation will establish an Office of Men's Health within the Department of Health & Human Services for the purpose of promoting men's health in the United States.
In 1994, Congress established National Men's Health Week, the week leading up to and including Father's Day. While Men's Health Week was an important first step, there is still much to be done to improve the health of American men. The life expectancy gap between men and women has increased from one year in 1920 to six years in 1998. This year, almost 200,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and almost 32,000 of these men will die. Life expectancy has been longer for women than men for several decades.
Statistics show that increased research, prevention and awareness are key to improving health. "I am proud that we are now in year four of Congress' five year commitment to double medical research funding at National Institute of Health (NIH). But American men need better education on health risks that affect them," said Congressman Cunningham.
"The Office of Men's Health has the potential to positively change the lives of men across America," said Cunningham. "As a prostate cancer survivor, I know first hand the importance of annual examinations and early detection. This Office will help to raise awareness about threats to men's health and hopefully we can reduce the number of men who die each year from treatable diseases."
"Since 1990, the Office of Research on Women's Health has improved the health of women throughout the United States through the coordination of research, health care services, and education. It is critical that we create a similar office of men's health to raise awareness and promote education about the need for screening and prevention," said McDermott. "As a physician I ask why are men dying earlier than women? And, how do we prevent it? Without an Office of Men's Health, those answers will be few and far between."
"This office will be important in coordinating prostate cancer detection and education, in the promotion of health behaviors and disease prevention, in improved public information about men's health and in better informed health care professionals. This is a benefit not only to men but to their families that love them," said Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, Men's Health Network.
For further information, please contact us at:
Men's Health Network