Men's Health Matters with Derek Griffith

Men's Health Matters with Derek Griffith Derek Griffith Associate Professor of Medicine Health and Society and Director, Institutie of Men's Health talks about men's health.

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Laura Osterman: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Laura Osterman with Health Plus. June is Men’s Health month with a focus of heightening awareness of preventable health problems and encouraging early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. Today, we are joined by Derek Griffith, Associate Professor of Medicine Health and Society and Director of the Center for Research of Men’s Health. Thanks for joining us today. Derek Griffith: Thank you for having me. Laura Osterman: Can you tell us a little bit about your research and your work? Derek Griffith: Sure, a lot of what I do is studying why men do not do what we know they should. So, why do not men engage in healthy behaviors such as healthy eating, physical activity, adequate sleep, those kinds of things, going to the doctor for preventive care, and how do things like stress, depressive symptoms, or just even like priorities would influence the choices that they are making and how they prioritize health in relation to that. Laura Osterman: I understand there is a new center for research of men’s health here at Vanderbilt. Can you tell us about that initiative? Derek Griffith: Absolutely. Yeah, I am very excited that we got approval during this last semester to have a center that is going to sit in the Provost’s office under the Vice Provosts for Research that will be one of the first in the country, university wide centers for research on men’s health that will look more broadly than just looking at either very narrowly psychosocial factors like you would potentially see in a psychology department or the straight biological factors like you would see in a cancer center that would focus on prostate and those kinds of cancers as well, so we are really going to be trying to work together with a variety of folks across campus. Now that Vanderbilt and the medical center are two different institutions, we are still going to try to work across those two settings to really try to marry the biological and non-biological factors and how those two intersect and connect with one another. Laura Osterman: Can you tell us a little more about what are the factors that might impact men’s health? Derek Griffith: I think the easiest way to think about men’s health obviously is that we are in the same environment with women. So, it is not like the factors that influence men’s health are necessarily unique to men, but the question for men’s health to me is how does men’s social experience of what it means to be a male, regardless of some sort of gender identity, what it means to sort of embody different characteristics, and expectations of how maleness and masculinity in manhood influence their health. So, it is really more about roles and priorities and expectations and how you chose to embody those or prioritize those in the context of their lives. Laura Osterman: Can you speak about annual checkups in preventative screenings? Why are these important and what might be some of those barriers or reasons that men might not see their provider on a regular basis and what are the things that might help? Derek Griffith: When we see the gender differences and medical help seeking between men and women, it actually typically boils down to these kind of preventive screenings, so it may not be a difference between men and women when it comes to them being symptomatic or having different problems because women tend to ignore those minor symptoms as well. For men and annual checkups preventative screenings, a lot of times some of the barriers that we found in our work is that they do not really find it useful. They do not feel if they are getting new information, useful information, and something new that they did not know before. “So, I don’t need to go to the doctor to be told that I need to lose weight. I don’t need to go to the doctor to be told that I need to sleep more. I need the doctor to give me information that I cannot just figure out on my own.” So, a lot of time, they wanted information like I said that they will get from tests and from procedures or just from the knowledge and expertise of the medical providers that they are seeing that they cannot just figure out on their own or google or get that way. I think the other thing is they want information that applies to the kinds of things that are important to them. So, for a lot of people, particularly men, health is not necessarily inherently a priority. It is something that we call instrumental value. It allows you to do other things you do see as important. So, it may not be important to you to be healthy just in general, but it is important you would be able to go to work or to be intimate with your partner. So, if we can tie these aspects of health that we want them to go get screened for, checked for, to things they care about, then we may me more successful at actually getting them to go see those doctors for those reasons. Laura Osterman: When we are talking about a healthy lifestyle, what things are important for maintaining overall health and well-being? Derek Griffith: Well, it is again the things that we already know, so it is all the stuff your mom told you, your grandma told you, and all that kind of stuff. Try to get an adequate amount of sleep, try to eat a healthy diet, and try to have food that looks less like all gray and brown, and have some diversity of colors in the foods that you eat, try to find healthy ways of dealing with stress in your life whether it is being more active, whether it is actually finding ways to connect with other people and communicate those kind of things that way. So, I think it is just trying to not make the individual behaviors but look at how do you create a healthier lifestyles overall. So, it is making those small changes that are manageable within the context of your own individual life and realizing there is not a one size that fits all, but everybody needs to do all of the things that will help them to be healthier. For example, we will see that men will chose eating or physical activity as opposed to realizing the need to make some modifications to both, and so it a matter of again not making it either or proposition but trying to get them to actually figure out how do we need to do a bit of all of these different things that we see as important. I have mentioned sleep a couple of times, but sleep is really something that we are seeing more and more being a huge barrier to just being healthy and some would call this sort of sleep crisis where people are just not getting adequate rest in their lives and that is triggering variety of other outcomes and just other things you may start to consume things that may be sugar-sweetened beverages, may be other kind of caffeinated things that have implications for awakening if this is a constant pattern for increased your heart rate, if you are having to have different doses of caffeine at different points throughout the day and so forth that as opposed to just an initial cup of coffee and take it you going. So, it is really sort of recognizing those other points. The last one I will say is we know that sedentary behavior has become a major issue in another folks in the medical center who have been doing a lot of work in this area but just the idea that we regardless of whether it is in commuting or in a lot of the jobs spending a lot of time sitting, the more that we could break that up or just even stand up and walk around as opposed to just constantly sitting whether it is in cars or other kind of vehicles or just even at your desk to get up and walk around, all those kinds of little things do not seem like much, but it actually can be a big help to your overall health and well being. Laura Osterman: So, for the men or women who might be listening, what are the key takeaway messages you would have for them? Derek Griffith: I think as opposed to trying to get men to be healthy for the sake of being healthy, I guess the key message from me is try to tie to things that are important to them. So, figure out why health should matter to them or help them figure out why health should matter to them or ask them frankly why health should matter to them is probably the easiest thing and see if you can tie the things that you are trying to encourage them to do to the things that they care about. So, again a lot of men will value being able to be successful at work or even just productive at work. You can tie healthier eating, sleeping, being at least minimally active to those kinds of things, if you can tie it to again being delicate, ability to be virile and intimate with partners, and that not declining over time as it often does but just being able to maintain or even improve where they are now. If you can tie health and health behaviors to those kinds of things, you are going to get a lot further probably in their keeping it to be more salient and important to them than just telling them this is good for you or you want to be there for your family and all that kind of stuff and making it seem such of distant thing down the road. Laura Osterman: Thank you so much your time today. Derek Griffith: My pleasure. Laura Osterman: Thanks for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast on the form at the bottom of this page. If you have a story suggestion, please email it to us at or you can use the “Contact Us” page on our website at -- end of recording --