BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all men in Volusia County, including Black men.
Cancer and unintentional death are second and third, respectively, according to a report recently released by the Florida Department of Health-Volusia County.
Cancer includes prostate and lung cancer while unintentional injury deaths include motor vehicle or traffic accidents, slipping, tripping or falling, poisoning by narcotics or hallucinogens, poisoning by other drugs, and drowning.
“People should be concerned. The report is telling a story that we don’t pay attention to. Too many men are dying and too many are dying too soon. Many lives have been affected. Many lives have been lost,” the Rev. John T. Long III, director of Community Partnerships and Relations with Halifax Health, told the Daytona Times this week.
“We as a community need to do what we can to help people live longer, fuller, higher quality lives.’’
Long, a longtime minister and former local pastor, has promoted men’s health in the Black community for years. Last year, he helped organize a men’s health summit at Bethune-Cookman University.
“We are planning on and discussing doing another. We want to give men tools and those concerned about men’s health tools to keep our men from dying and dying too soon,” Long said.
Health organizations encourage frequent regular checkups, getting enough sleep, exercise, eating healthy and better life choices for longer, healthier lives.
“At Halifax Health, we are pushing getting out into the community, including the Black community. We are reaching out to churches and partnering with organizations and schools like Bethune-Cookman to get the message out about prevention and awareness when it comes to these conditions,” Long related.
There are higher rates in death among Black males with cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer and unintentional injury deaths.
“Part of the problem with almost every negative health condition is that we don’t pay appropriate attentions with what’s going on with our bodies. We live in denial. We shrug it off and play it off,” Long explained.
“The reality is that many of these conditions are preventable. The symptoms are manageable. You must take responsibility. Many treatments become ineffective because we are so far into the disease process.’’
In regards to unintentional deaths, there are rises in overdoses from drugs and opioids.
“Opioids are a big problem, but we can’t forget that we must discourage cocaine and crack cocaine use. It goes back to lifestyle choices. You must be strong enough not to indulge the first time. These drugs are so addictive; it only takes one time,” mentioned Long.
Ethan Jackson, a data specialist for the Florida Department of Health-Volusia County, agreed.
“We are seeing more overdoses on drugs overall across the county. The opioids are tying into it.
We have another report coming out later this month that specifically covers drugs and overdoses.”
Distrust of doctors
Historically, Black men have refused to see a doctor and have a distrust of doctors.
“The observation of men, especially Black men being reluctant to go to the doctor, is accurate. You can switch out the disease with any other. Many people are contributing to our own poor health,” Long remarked.
“There are things that are genetic that you can’t do anything about, but others like diet, lifestyle and choices are what you can take control of to get yourself healthy.’’
Lack of insurance
Less availability of health insurance also contributes to higher death rates in Black males.
“The Black men do have a stigma and lack of trust with doctors. Black men are also uninsured more than other groups and that factors in with things like looking at prostate cancer, which is detected early on,” Jackson stated. “So if you’re not regularly seeing a doctor, having it detected early is harder.’’
More prostate deaths
Prostate and lung cancer are the most prevalent forms of cancer the report states, according to the report. Prostate cancer deaths are on the rise in all three races.
Rates in Black males double or triple the rates for prostate cancer in both White and Hispanic males, the report states. Rates are adjusted by age.
The report also cites geographical differences.
For example, extreme Northwest Volusia has the highest rates of all three of the top causes of death when compared to other Volusia County zip codes. The beachside zip code of the county’s southeast quadrant is the only zip code in the report to have none of the top three causes of death.
2011 to 2015 data
The health department report lists data collected from 2011 to 2015.
The report indicates that since 2011, Volusia County rates of deaths for cardiovascular disease and cancer is higher than the state rate.
“There are increases over this time period in this area, but we do know that men have less contact with their doctors than women do. Men also have shorter life spans,” Jackson said.