Why do black men avoid regular doctor’s visits?

Black men avoid regular doctor visits at rates way higher than black women and the rest of society. The reasons why vary. A California study recently found black men don’t trust white and Asian doctors as much as they trust black doctors.

“So this study looked at black patients and they felt more comfortable with black doctors and that led to better compliance with preventable care. As you know, black men, as far as a demographic, have the lowest life expectancy of all patients. They suffer from some of the most preventable diseases,” said Holy Name Medical Center’s Dr. Clenton Coleman.

Black men between the ages of 45 and 54 die by stroke at a rate three times higher than their white counterparts. Black men’s prostate cancer risk is 74 percent higher than non-Hispanic white men. In general, two out of five blacks have high blood pressure that starts at a younger age than the rest of the population.

“There’s systemic problems like systemic racism, a historical context in which patients mistrust the system. There have been glaring, extreme examples are the Tuskegee experiment, gynecological surgeries on non-consenting women without anesthesia,” Coleman said.

Holy Name Medical and the Nu Beta Beta Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity have partnered to offer a free health fair Saturday at the hospital to reduce disparities through detection and education.

“That’s a major issue in our community. We see through statistics that a lot of people are not getting the primary care that they need because illnesses are going way too far within our community that should be stopped early, but they’re just going too far,” said Brandon Hamer, social action chair for Nu Beta Beta, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Coleman says in 1970, 2 percent of the medical doctors in the country were black. It’s 4 percent now. It’s progress, but the number is still far short of what’s needed based on the California study.

“I’m really excited about this. I think it gives us an opportunity to address this population of black men whom for some reason the health system has neglected or they have this need that we need to address,” Coleman said.

So, what’s the remedy for African-American men for thorough medical care from now until when the nation has more African-American medical doctors?

“I think it’s being culturally sensitive, so a lot of patients and physicians have this inherent bias whether it’s conscious or unconscious about the patient. If I don’t look like you, then I’m assuming – we use stereotypes. So I think being aware that the patients that you see, regardless of their skin color or their gender or their sexual preference, has different needs and we should address those,” Coleman said.

Coleman hopes Saturday’s health fair will be a breakthrough.