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Study Examines Reasons Some Black Men Avoid Doctors

TUESDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Many black men may not visit their doctor because they find the interaction stressful and don't feel physicians give them enough useful information on how to make recommended lifestyle changes, new research suggests.

The findings stem from a series of focus groups with black American men regarding their medical practitioners. The result: doctors are viewed as coming up short when it comes to advice on how to make healthy changes in behavior -- such as eating better, exercising more or losing weight -- without sacrificing time with loved ones.

When black men do go to the doctor, it's usually because they have to get test results, or because a family member has urged them to pay a visit, the study team found. And even then, the men reported not liking the tone that doctors take with them.

Many said they already know they need to make these lifestyle changes, but physicians did not seem to realize that these changes involved difficult trade-offs.

"That's usually not the story that's told," lead author Derek Griffith, an assistant professor in the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, said in a university news release. "Too much emphasis is on the things that African American men don't do, rather than exploring why they don't do them."

In reality, he said, "many men want to adopt healthier lifestyles but face significant challenges beyond health insurance and the cost of care. They are concerned about their health and are more knowledgeable about the changes they need to make than they are often given credit for."

Griffith and his colleagues gleaned their observations from 14 focus groups, held at the University of Michigan campus, that involved 105 middle-aged black men.

Much of the impetus for the work, the authors noted, comes from the fact that while black men die seven years earlier, on average, than men of other ethnicities in the United States, they are also more likely to suffer from undiagnosed chronic health problems.

The group discussions revealed that black men feel that they come to their doctor already armed with the knowledge that they have to make dietary changes, lose weight and take up more physical activity. What the majority said they rarely get is meaningful assistance doing all of the above, without having to give up those activities that are most important to them, such as spending time with their spouses and children.

The findings suggest that doctors need to offer practical advice to their black male patients to help them alter their lifestyles while still placing value on the time they spend with their families and communities, the study authors noted.

More information

For more on minority health issues, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

-- Alan Mozes

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Jan. 26, 2011

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