Being a father is a big responsibility -- with big demands. Dads spend a lot of time thinking about, taking care of, providing for and worrying about their families, which means they don't necessarily put their own needs -- or their health -- first.
This may in part explain why it's so difficult to get your male patients into the office, let alone to get them screened for prediabetes. But it also may be an opportunity and incentive to get them there as well, so they can do more of the things they enjoy with their family.
Since June is Men's Health Month and Father's Day is coming up, Kate Kirley, MD, Director of Chronic Disease Prevention at the American Medical Association, suggests ways to get your male patients in to see physicians so they have more Father's Days to celebrate.
It's A Family Affair
We all can benefit from a little support, and encouragement can go a long way, especially from other family members. Family medicine physicians who take care of whole families are especially at an advantage here.
"I might take care of a man's spouse, children or parents, and while I can't violate confidentiality, sometimes I can help other family members be motivators to get their husband or their father to come see me and start engaging more in their health care," Kirley says.
Educating other family members is helpful as well. Physicians can provide them with information to take back to their male relatives that may encourage them to visit their physician. Tools that may prove helpful include:
For more ways to connect with and educate your patients, the AMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have designed a toolkit to help identify and refer patients in physician practices. Visit Prevent Diabetes STAT and download the toolkit, which includes algorithms, patient handouts and referral forms.
What's The Motivation?
Once male patients are in the office, determining what's important to them tends to be more effective in helping them understand why it's critical for them to prevent diabetes.
"And oftentimes it's being present, active and around with their families, being able to provide for their families and being able to engage in activities that they enjoy," Kirley says.
She tells her patients that anything related to prevention, whether it's screening or leading a healthy lifestyle, is all about what they want to accomplish in their lives and keeping them in a position to accomplish those things.
It's also important to explain that these interventions won't interfere with or cause him to compromise on his other priorities, like work and taking care of his family.
Kirley also reminds physicians to do away with certain assumptions they may have about men, such as that they're not the food preparers in their household. In fact, often times they are. Instead of trying to tell someone's wife to cook healthier, talk with men directly about preparing healthier meals.
"They're oftentimes involved in their food preparation and they can involve their kids in their food preparation too. And that's a fun way to be a dad and interact with their kids," Kirley says.
It Becomes A Win-Win
Although it can be very difficult to get men into interventions like diabetes prevention programs (DPPs) because they don't see their physicians regularly enough, when they do participate, the benefits are enormous.
"If you can get men to participate, they tend to do very well in the program. They tend to be a little more likely to lose weight, and they seem to find it easier to achieve the outcomes," Kirley says.
She thinks their success may be due to obvious changes they can make to lose weight such as drinking less soda. Those types of lifestyle changes tend to have a significant impact, which is why DPPs may also be so successful.
When physicians don't see their male patients regularly, these patients are at greater risk of developing diabetes because physicians do not get the chance to catch risk factors like prediabetes. "If a man develops prediabetes, then over the course of five years, somewhere between 15 and 30 percent of these patients will develop diabetes, and over their lifetime probably greater than 70 percent will develop diabetes," Kirley says.
This becomes a slippery slope into other health issues. According to the CDC's 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report, 71% of adults 18 years or older diagnosed with diabetes had high blood pressure or were using prescription medications to lower their high blood pressure.
"Even if they don't develop diabetes, there's a number of negative health consequences," explains Kirley. "They're still more likely to develop high blood pressure and develop cardiovascular disease eventually, so there's a lot at stake if they don't take action to manage their prediabetes." Kirley says.
To avoid these negative health outcomes, celebrate Men's Health month and Father's Day by stressing the importance of diabetes prevention so your male patients can continue celebrating life with their families.
"Being actively engaged with your kids is really important now in society I think. It's really accepted. So encouraging men to get screened for prediabetes is a great opportunity to engage them in healthier lifestyles," Kirley says.
"In part, because in many ways it's an opportunity to do more fun stuff with their kids," she adds.