The Questions We Don’t Ask

Socioeconomic status, discrimination, housing, physical environment, food security, child development, culture, social support, health care services, transportation, working conditions, age, gender and race.  What do they have in common?  The factors listed above are believed to contribute, in one way or another, to our overall health status.  In essence, the aforementioned factors, collectively called the social determinants of health, can shape our health on the most subtle level.  For example, living in an urban city with limited resources for parks and recreation combined with heavy traffic conditions could affect an individual’s decisions on exercise.  Rather than expending energy dodging cars and inhaling unsafe emissions from cars, individuals may elect to spend most of their leisure time in the comfort of their homes watching television or surfing the internet.  It would seem that this alone would not significantly affect an individual’s health status.  Lack of regular exercise, however, can place an individual at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases.  Therefore, I believe that addressing social determinants of health, combined with timely medical care can significantly improve the health of the population and as a result, enjoy a better quality of life.

At the Men’s Health Network (MHN), we focus on how gender differences reinforce socially accepted health disparities between men and women.  For example, at health fairs or presentations, we ask people, “who is healthier, men or women?”  Without hesitation, men and women emphatically answer women.  It is well documented that women are twice as likely to seek preventive health care.  As a result, women have outlived men for the past 80 years.  Women currently outlive men by an average of 5 years across all races.  Society knows it.  We have asked them.  However, MHN is not satisfied.  We continue to ask questions.  Why are women healthier than men?  Why isn’t there more attention to this disparity in life expectancy?  Why aren’t there programs to address a man’s unwillingness to stay masculine at all costs?

We have a long list of questions.  But one of the main problems is that not many others are asking those questions.  Why is that?

If you are interested in being a local leader to discuss men’s health in your community, please, please, DO NOT hesitate to contact me at

Ramon P. Llamas, MPH, CHES

View posts by Ramon P. Llamas, MPH, CHES
Ramon holds a Masters in Public Health degree with an emphasis on health promotion and health education from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and a BS in biological sciences and biomedical engineering from the University of California, Irvine. He is a member of the Men's Health Caucus of the American Public Health Association. His background includes health promotion at the US DHHS in Washington, DC and Director of Programs for Men's Health Network.
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