Conventional wisdom says men, especially black men, won’t go to the doctor until it’s too late to stop or reverse illness, but you couldn’t tell by the thousands of black men who showed up recently for the 10th annual Minority Men’s Health Fair at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Dr. Charles Modlin, a kidney transplant surgeon, urologist and founder and director of the Minority Men’s Health Center of Cleveland, said he and hundreds of volunteers saw thousands of minority men receive free health screenings in an attempt to reduce health care disparities in the African American male population.
While the health fair was open to all people, officials targeted minority men because, on average, they have high mortality rates and poorer outcomes for a variety of health issues.
“These statistics don’t lie. When we look at the lifespan of African American males [about 8 years less than their white counterparts]….these health care disparities are a real phenomenon. And we don’t have to accept the fact that these exist. There is something we can do about it,” said Modlin, one of fewer than two dozen African American transplant surgeons in the country.
In a YouTube video promoting this year’s health fair, actor Bill Cobbs urged men to attend the health screenings because “early detection is the greatest way to hope for a cure and beat these diseases.”
“Our impact, I think, is significant over the years of doing the health fairs,” Modlin said. “It was during the health fairs that we detected a number of cases of previously unrecognized prostate cancer, for example.”
Participants are tested for lung capacity to test for asthma and other respiratory, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and other conditions.
“In 2003, we had our first minority men’s health fair here at Cleveland Clinic and the turnout was about 35 men,” Modlin said. The health fair has grown to comprise thousands of men, who visit various stations throughout four floors of the building to be tested.
“The truth can be intimidating, but in the long run it’s really a good friend,” one participant said in an interview, “because it helps a lot to know just how well you are or otherwise. So that you can get to know people here better and they can change that a little bit.”