Health Provider Toolkit
|When it comes to health and behavior lifelong patterns are set in childhood. As adolescents emerge from childhood they begin to enter a world where earlier patterns put them at risk for accidents, disease, unplanned pregnancy and even unhealthy weight.
Today we have an adolescent obesity epidemic in this country, and it isn't just an issue for girls and young women. We have an adolescent suicide problem, and it's pronounced with adolescent males, who complete suicide at four times the rate of adolescent females. Homicide among adolescent males is four times that of adolescent females. Adolescent males have an unintended injury rate that is double that of females, and adolescent males have an ADHD diagnosis rate that is three times that of adolescent females. The diagnosis rate of epilepsy among young males is twice that of young females, and the incidence rates of syphilis among males age 15-24 is from twice to five times that of females.
Yet, once most young males leave their pediatrician's office for the last time they do not return to a health care provider for regular visits until their mid-thirties, if then. And, while this lack of continuous care may be exacerbated by poverty and other factors, it affects young men who come from affluent backgrounds as well.
The situation with females is quite different. Once they have their first period and become sexually active they have more incentive to seek continuous medical care, if for no other reason than simply because they can become pregnant. Their ob/gyn's office, in essence, becomes their medical home for life. Young males do not have the equivalent, with consequences for both themselves and society.
Young males are half the equation in unintended and unwanted pregnancies. They acquire STIs that, if left undiagnosed and/or untreated, can spread to their sexual partners and have severe long term consequences for their own overall health. They suffer from depression that goes unnoticed by our educational and health care systems, leading at times to substance abuse and those suicide rates that are higher than females. They are not taught what it means to be biologically male and the things that males should learn in adolescence to protect their health as adults, like testicular self-exams (testicular cancer is the top cancer among males 18-34). They are not engaged in conversation about the very meaning of masculinity, leading to risky behaviors and, among some gay male youth, shame and bullying.
If young males had a place, a home, or even a welcoming place to go within our health care system that focused on these needs in a coherent and comprehensive fashion we would be much healthier as a society.
For the past year The Boys Initiative, working with physicians, medical institutions and major health organizations, has researched this issue and has taken a first step toward addressing it.
On January 22, The Boys Initiative launched the Partnership for Male Youth and the Partnership's Health Provider Toolkit for Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Males. The Partnership will initially be comprised of organizations that worked with The Boys Initiative over the course of the past 18 months to develop the Toolkit, which was produced under the guidance of the project's steering committee and Advisory Council. Each of these bodies is composed of medical and health care professionals from a range of specialty areas, reflecting the comprehensive nature of the subjects included in the Toolkit.
The Toolkit is a groundbreaking online resource for health care providers who interact with males ages 10-26 and covers nine major health domains: healthy eating and physical activity, sexual and reproductive health, trauma, substance use disorders, mental health, developmental disorders, sexual biologic basics, normal pubertal concerns and genital abnormalities and tests and immunizations. It contains tools, methods and reference materials for screening and assessment of risk among AYA male patients
The website that houses the Toolkit is a dynamic platform, continually updated as new scientific literature is published and as suggestions for improvement are made by health care providers, parents, AYA males and others.
In the next few months the Toolkit material will be adapted to become a resource for parents and AYA males as well.
The Toolkit can be accessed HERE.
Other related materials include the video of the January 22 launch webinar and a brief overview of the project by Dr. Richard S. Pelman, one of the project's steering committee members. The link to the Partnership's YouTube channel, where the materials can be accessed, is HERE.