Nick Cannon. Tracey Morgan. Rick Ross. What’s Going on With Black Men’s Health?
I’ve been holding this one in for a long time, but April is Minority Health Month and I can’t stay quiet any longer. I’ve been extremely concerned by the recent spate of health scares and deaths among young African American men.
First, legendary rapper Heavy D dies suddenly at age 44. Then Nick Canon, 31, suffers kidney failure and is later diagnosed with lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys. Tracey Morgan passes out and gets hospitalized in Park City, Utah. Rapper Rick Ross is hospitalized after having seizures on an airplane; Erick Sermon, 42, of EPMD fame suffers a heart attack, and Patrice Neal, a 41-year old popular comedian dies from stroke complications. Oh, Vince Herbert the famous music producer and husband of Tamar Braxton had his own life-threatening health scare.
So, what gives? As a mother raising a black male, I want to know. So, I went to an expert source: Andrea Collier, author of The Black Woman's Guide to Black Men's Health
“Younger men of color think they are invincible. They figure that they can drink and smoke and not pay the consequences,” Andrea said. “They can have a steady diet of chips and hot Cheetos and figure that there will be no impact. Some exercise, but not enough. And when it comes to having a relationship with their doctors (if they have one at all), they get lost in the process.”
“If you look at the headlines in the black community with high profile young men, you wonder what's going on. But these young men are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Andrea, an award-winning health journalist who often sheds light on issues that are un-discussed in the black community.
The sobering statistics speak for themselves.
- Black men live 7.5 years less than other racial groups
- Black men have higher death rates than women, for all leading causes of death
- Black men are 3 times less likely to have routine medical checkups than Black women
- 40% of Black men die prematurely from cardiovascular disease as compared to 22% of Caucasian men
Obviously obesity and diet also come into play with a number of these instances. But African-American men are infamous for not seeking or following up on medical and/or health appointments. Trying to get most black men to the doctor is a Herculean feat. Been there. Tried that.
In fact, over 65% of Black men say that they have not been treated or seen by a medical doctor in years, with 3+ years being the average amount of time. Meanwhile, most Black men have been socially reared to believe that pain, or showing signs of pain, denotes weakness. Doctors say this misplaced idea is the root cause of men not seeking routine exams, or other types of medical attention.
For his part, Nick Cannon has decided to document his recovery in a powerful new web series called, “NCredible Health Hustle,” which chronicles Cannon’s struggle to regain his health. In one scene, Nick Cannon sits at a table in front of a dozen medicine bottles, trying to figure out a “tough,” macho way to eat a banana. In another he struggles through a work-out. He’s also changed his diet, swapping red meat, processed foods and salt for more vegetables, fruits and water. It’s must-see-tv for every black male.
“We have to teach our sons when they are young,” says Andrea, a mother of two, who also blazed trails with her award winning health memoir, Still With Me…A Daughter’s Journey of Love and Loss. “We have to set an example. We have to teach them what to eat and how to live. We have to talk about health and wellness. It is easier to start when they are young.”
I’m on it with my 8-year-old. He thinks bananas are very cool and I’m doing everything in my power to make sure it stays that way.