Knowing your audience is key to developing effective messages. When talking about men’s health, it’s logical to think that men are the primary audience for relevant health and disease-prevention messages and materials. However, we may need to adjust our thinking.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, women are often key decision-makers and coordinators of health care for their families, making approximately 80 percent of such decisions.
I know this firsthand as a wife, mother, daughter, and aunt: from hearing of a new ache or pain, or symptoms that require research on the Internet to reminding my husband about routine check ups and important appointments he would rather forget; from finding health care providers for my daughter at college far from home to helping my nephew through a tough time by encouraging him to seek mental health services, or asking my 92-year-old father if his foot is still swollen (from 200 miles away). Advising my “patients” and making these kinds of health care decisions are just a part of my day-to-day family responsibilities.
Recognizing the influence that women have on men’s health means that health communicators should factor them in as influencers in public education campaigns related to men’s health. We can’t always leave men’s health decision-making to men alone. It’s often a team effort and women frequently play a big part.
Providing accessible, quality health information to both men and women is a key piece of the puzzle. Educating women about men’s health may be the critical element needed to motivate men to embrace preventive care and address urgent health concerns.
As health communicators, we obviously can’t exclude men as an audience when discussing men’s health, but we should remember to expand the conversation to the women in their lives who are influencers of their health care decisions.