June is Men's Health Month and I'd like to take this opportunity to celebrate all of the good Black men out there. That's right - stand up and take a bow! God knows you deserve some good, positive press. Black men have been maligned, disparaged, and disregarded in the press - and I'm sick of it. Not all Black men are villains - many are heroes.
All Black men are not gangsters, killers, thieves, liars, drug dealers, child abusers, or dead beat dads. There are those who have beat the odds, who have achieved in their respective professions, who love their wives and families, who try daily to do the right thing. These men are not blazoned across our television screens (although they should be), but rather, they are our quiet heroes, who set examples daily by their good works, strong moral fiber, their leadership in their homes, their professions, and their communities. They are our daily role models - going to work every day, quietly setting positive examples for our youth, often without fanfare or reward. That's why this month, Men's Health Month, I'd like to give the good Black men out there a "standing ovation" and declare them our "heroes".
Hero can be defined as "somebody who commits an act of remarkable bravery or who has shown great courage, strength of character, or another admirable quality"; somebody who is admired and looked up to for outstanding qualities or achievements. Who better to wear this honor than the Black fathers, sons, and brothers who get up each day, take on the days' challenges, to make their place in the world - a world that is often suspect, hostile, jealous and resentful of their contributions. Make no mistake, being a Black man is hard work - every day.
This year at journey to wellness, we're focusing on personal responsibility. So, in celebrating all good Black Men, I salute you and encourage you to take on one more challenge: to get healthy and stay healthy. And if you're in shape, encourage your male friends to get in shape too. You know the statistics: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black men, on average live to age 69.7 years compared to white men (75.7 years). There's nothing funny about the jokes told about Black men needing to collect social security at age 35 because they won't live long enough to collect social security benefits at age 65. Vow to be one of the Black men that changes those dismal statistics.
There is no macho value in neglecting your health, carrying around extra weight, neglecting control of your blood pressure and blood sugar, smoking, doing drugs, practicing unsafe sex, not exercising, not visiting your doctor, not getting your check-ups, and not listening to your body. Real heroes respect themselves - and that includes their bodies. You can't help anyone if you're sick (or dead). We desperately need you around for as long as possible, healthy, clear thinking, and strong so that you can continue your good work and contributions to your families and to our community.
With you on your Journey To Wellness...
Dr. Mary S. Harris