Healthy Men Must Commit To Having A Healthy Family

For National Men’s Health Month we can all take a moment to show our gratitude for our health and the health of our loved ones.  I took a challenging tip this month to visit my mother who may be facing her final stages in life.  She has been a rock for me providing a solid center to a familia  that has been in Nevada for six generations.  She is a great, great, great grandmother and she gave birth to me when the term Hispanic did not exist.  I share with many the fact that on my birth certificate my parents are defined as white.  As a Latino man I know that there are several cultural constructs that often keep me from seeing a doctor as notions of machismo and masculinity equate asking for help as a sign of weakness.  Fortunately, my career choices have given me the insights and good sense to see a doctor regularly with any health concerns and to follow his/her recommendations about 95% of the time.  I wish I could claim to follow my doctor’s orders 100% of the time.

MotherMy mother sacrificed so much in her life to provide for us that I have the sense that she made some health decision that were not in her own best interest just to make sure her children were looked after first.  I see this pattern in other Latina mothers I have encountered as I have worked with the CDC to promote flu vaccination among undeserved communities.

There is cultural value of “Marianismo” within Latino communities that operates with the assumption that a woman should make sacrifices for her family without regard for her own needs.  Latinas deben quen aguatar translates to a notion that Latina women are to put up with much; to make great sacrifices; and should be the rock for the family.  I have heard Latina women talk about how it is more important to have their babies vaccinated first and they come second.  This is not a best practice but it is a cultural issue that needs to be considered in developing health promotion strategies or messages.

On my recent trip to Nevada I knew in my mind and heart that my mom was saying good-bye to me as she reached out and held my hand before she was transported to the hospital.  As a single parent, my mom worked so hard all her life to provide for her family. Her strength, sense of humor and love for life kept us grounded as a family.  Her work ethic is the drive for our success and tenacity.  When we face the inevitable we are undoubtedly reminded that we are on this planet for seconds.  My mom’s influence touched the hearts of many and her seconds seem like a millennial.

Her sacrifices for her family probably meant she skipped out on buying medications for herself or seeing a dentist or doctor on a regular basis just so to make sure her kids were well fed, clothed, and attended to by the appropriate medical care.  For this month dedicated to men’s health, let us show our gratitude for our own health. And just as importantly, reach out to your loved one, especially to your mothers, to make sure their health is valued and attended to—healthy men should commit to having a healthy family.

Carlos Velazquez

View posts by Carlos Velazquez
For more than two decades, Carlos has been working to improve public health, by designing and implementing successful national and local prevention programs in the United States and abroad. He managed the nation’s largest capacity-building program on HIV prevention for Latinos. He developed a national HIV social marketing campaign in Australia and produced a documentary that chronicled the impact of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community in the United States. Through a recent partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Walgreens, he implemented a $10 million vaccine voucher initiative, which also involved several Latin American consulates in the United States. Carlos was instrumental in helping to develop the first Cultural Risk Communications Model for the CDC.  He is the President of HMA Associates, a marketing and communications firm in Washington DC that specializes in multicultural communication interventions aimed at reducing health disparities and achieving health equity.  He serves on the Arlington County Human Rights Commission,  the Arlington County Commission for the Arts and is an active member of Toastmasters International.  You can also follow Carlos on twitter @jclatino.  


  1. Zak HinesJuly 6, 2015

    I am so sorry about your mother. Clearly she has had an enormous impact on your life and I pray that she finds peace in her final days and beyond. I too have been blessed to come from a good family with loving parents who continually make sacrifices for the good of my brothers and I. As men, I absolutely agree that it is our responsibility to commit to having a healthy family. We are raised from birth to be the strong ones, the leaders. It’s time for all men to step up, handle their business, and start taking not only their own health seriously, but place greater emphasis on healthy lifestyle choices and habits for the rest of our family.

  2. TyrusJuly 6, 2015

    I was moved by your story and I hope I can do the same for my kids when I have them. Your mother sounds like a great woman as she took great care of you and touch lives in the process.

  3. SophiaJuly 7, 2015

    Thank you for this touching family story. I really appreciate how you explained how self-awareness is so important to one’s health. I have seen machismo and marianismo in other cultures as well (they may be called something else or not recognized at all). I think that educating men and women about these tendencies is key in fostering the self-awareness that is necessary to balance them. Setting an example, such as explaining your personal family story will also show others that they can do the same.

  4. JakeJuly 8, 2015

    I love how you relate National Men’s Health Month to the health of everyone we love, especially our families. And thank you for sharing the story of your mother as well.

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