A major health disparity exists between the young men of Baltimore and those throughout the rest of the country according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. Issues of drugs, violence and poverty are compounded by limited access to healthcare, which puts them at greater risk for physical and psychological concerns that can negatively influence family members and sexual partners.
The report, "Baltimore's Young Men: In Their Prime?" suggests the wellbeing of the city's male population, aged 15-24 years old, depends on increased availability of
healthcare services and programs.
"A lot of the services in Baltimore are geared toward female reproductive health and women's health services," said Arik Marcell, co-author of the report. "There's not really a lot [of effort in] involving men in those kinds of settings. That's similar across the nation."
The brief states that 69 percent of deaths are caused by assault/homicide in this age group. Baltimore leads the state and the nation in the number of male adolescents who have carried a weapon, brought a weapon to school and who do not go to school because they feel unsafe. Baltimore also leads the state and country in the number young men who smoke marijuana regularly and have attempted suicide.
"The high rates of poverty clearly contribute to the social construction of what's going on in the city compared to other parts of the state," Marcell said. "As part of that, you've got a lot of broken households."
Lack of medical insurance prevents many males from seeking health services. Afri¬can Americans, Latinos, high school absentees, poor and near-poor young males are most likely to be uninsured and put off seeking medical attention or buying prescription drugs due to the financial burden.
But other factors steer males away from health services as well.
Women are socialized to use health facilities whereas males, who are socialized to be tough and independent, often choose not to ask health professionals for help with their problems.
Male-friendly healthcare facilities, the expansion of healthcare options and outreach efforts are suggested by the report to decrease the disparity.
"We need programs that help to support families, especially during the transition of [male] adolescence," Marcell said. "We spend a lot of time in the first few years of life supporting children. It would be nice to support these boys during the transition from childhood to adolescence."
The lack of school retention is also to blame for a lot of young men engaging in destructive behavior, Marcell said. Cutting school leaves young men unsupervised and with plenty of time to venture toward unfavorable activities.
"[We need] funding support to keep boys in school, work with police to work positively with young men, and to work with juvenile justice to keep them from being incarcerated," he said.
Baltimore has several low-cost healthcare facilities, including the Healthy Teens & Young Adults Clinic at 1372 W. North Ave. To contact a health professional there, call (410) 396-0353.