Theresa K. Jackson
U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional)
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — If you ask a sample of Soldiers why they chose to join the military, many suggest the reason was one or both of their parents were in the military.
Given that nearly 50 percent of military children enter or consider entering the military, we know that military children learn from their parents about a potential career and commitment to their country.
But what are they learning from their parents, particularly their fathers, about health?
Think back. When you were a child, who made your doctor appointments and took you to the doctor? Who ensured you had your immunizations? Who encouraged you to eat your broccoli and prevented you from eating French fries at every meal? For some, it was dad. For most, it was mom.
The Men’s Health Network suggests there is a silent health crisis today among U.S. men, which begins in childhood, with “suck it up” or “take it like a man.”
Males are told to push through the pain and rewarded for being tough and ignoring their aches, pains and feelings.
Once they are adults, men make half as many appointments as women with health care professionals for prevention. They are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors like tobacco use and alcohol abuse than women, and they are less likely to seek help if something is bothering them.
These habits lead to negative health outcomes later in life. Men live five years less than women, on average, and they are more likely to die of heart disease, cancer, injuries, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, HIV, suicide and homicide.
Health is everyone’s issue, so remember the acronym F.A.T.H.E.R.:
Fight the silent men’s health crisis. Talk to buddies about health issues, and advocate for your health and your friends’ health. Challenge the norms.
Always take care of yourself. Pay attention to your body. When you don’t feel well, go to the doctor. If something is worrying you, talk to someone.
Talk to your kids. Strong emotional bonds are important to child development and family cohesion. Talking with your kids fosters a family unit that is safe, supportive and loving.
Have fun with health. Show your kids that health can be fun. Play catch, ride bikes, jump waves or visit a farmer’s market. These activities don’t just keep your family active; they also allow you to spend time together and make positive memories.
Encourage and engage in healthy behaviors. How many of us tell children not to smoke or drink alcohol, when we ourselves cannot follow our own advice? Live a healthy lifestyle with exercise, enough sleep, nutritious foods and limited alcohol intake — without tobacco.
Remember you’re your child’s role model. Make your own health appointments and attend theirs when you are home. Teach children that health is a man’s responsibility, too. By remaining fit, you teach your children that taking care of their bodies is important.
More than four out of 10 male Soldiers are parents. Live as F.A.T.H.E.R.s — the Army family, and yours, will be stronger because of it.