Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
Nine out of every 10 persons dying on the job in Jamaica are men.
Last week, two fairly young men died suddenly on the job bringing fresh calls for more attention to take preventative measures to deal with men's health. "We have a crisis in men's health and men need to be more conscious of their wellness behaviour," psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj told The Sunday Gleaner.
Semaj joins other local health professionals who have warned for years that Jamaican men are not paying sufficient attention to health warnings and are not seeking medical intervention soon enough.
"Men do not take care of their health compared to women. Women will seek help earlier, which is one of the reasons breast cancer has a higher survival rate than prostate cancer.
"Men, on the other hand, will have a number of conditions, some of them glaring, but they seek no help for it," added Semaj.
While not giving numbers, consultant emergency physician at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr Romayne Edwards agreed with Semaj.
"There is definitely a problem with males in Jamaica seeking health care. I think it stems from tradition. Men are seen as the stronger sex and they should not have complaints or ills as the women," said Edwards.
"Women therefore are usually the ones who get their yearly physicals, attend the doctor with simple complaints and are usually the ones responsible to accompany the children to seek medical attention.
"Therefore, most men tend to ignore the warning signs, they 'watch it' more often and seek home remedies at first, sometimes to their detriment," added Edwards.
She said as a consequence, the men tend to seek medical attention late or when the sickness is in advanced stages.
"This is even so in educated men and surprisingly even those employed in the health sector."
According to Edwards, there is an increased awareness in Jamaica over the last few years regarding yearly physicals with persons seeking medical attention for their executive profile and their age-specific screening tests to be done.
However, the females still outnumber the males by far.
"Males are very afraid of the digital rectal examination which serves as a screening tool for prostate cancer. Some will say it is uncomfortable, degrading and they prefer if it is done by a woman," said Edwards.
"Health education is needed with a special emphasis on men's health in Jamaica. This cannot be overstated. This may not prevent cases of sudden death but it will aid in reducing the numbers in those that can be diagnosed and have early intervention."
Data from a 2009 report published by the National Cancer Intelligence Network and Cancer Research in the United Kingdom confirmed Semaj's claim.
According to the report, men are 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer than women and are 70 per cent more likely to be killed by cancers that affect both sexes.
The report says this was because men were less willing to switch to healthy lifestyles and were more reluctant to complain to doctors about symptoms during their initial stages.
On Tuesday, 43-year-old Orville Heaven, a Meadowbrook High School teacher, collapsed while teaching a class and was pronounced dead at hospital.
A day before, sergeant Leachman Gurdon collapsed while at work at the Matilda's Corner Police Station. He was also pronounced dead at the hospital.
Medical authorities are yet to determine the cause of both deaths.
Dismissing the claim that the deaths could be due to the high stress levels of their jobs, Semaj argued that 80 per cent of visits to health practitioners were precipitated by stress and that the majority of diseases were also triggered by stress, which is always a part of a person's life.
According to Semaj, there is a high probability of dying within two years of retirement.
"Man was designed to work, the worst thing he can do is sit home doing nothing, so work in itself is not a stress factor. Anything that exercises your body and mind is good for you," Semaj claimed.
get regular check-ups
The consulting psychologist said it was imperative that men pay closer attention to their health and get regular check-ups.
"Men need to pay very keen attention to the critical factors of diet, exercise, excess drinking and poor stress management," stated Semaj.
He was supported by Pastor Charles Francis of the Faith United Church of God International.
According to Francis, men need to pay greater emphasis to their physical health coupled with a firm spiritual well-being.
"Having a solid spiritual foundation to stand on will allow someone to deal with stress much better. Faith gives a person that inner peace to deal with anything life throws at them," said Francis.
"So, as the Bible teaches, the physical and the spiritual go hand in hand, so it is important to tend to the needs of both, not ignoring one over the other."