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Brazil on My Mind | Talking About Men’s Health™

Ah, Brazil!
Just saying the word brings to mind thoughts of endless white, sandy beaches;
soothing, warm Atlantic waters; Tropicalismo music; bright, sunny colors; and a
very special people. With destinations like Rio, Bahia, and the Amazon, Brazil
can seem very exotic. But, in some ways, Brazil is just like America.

Surfs Up!

As luck
would have it, I recently spent a week in Brazil, landing right smack in the
middle of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. I first headed to the island of
Santa Catarina, in the state that goes by the same name, to surf the winter
Antarctic swells that arise from the south. Although cold for the locals, the
water and air temperature, both about 63oF, was comfy for me — not bad for the middle of winter. And the best surf
beaches, Praia Mole, Joacquina, Campeche and Lagoa were…magically…empty. All
the breaks to myself. For a gray-haired long-boarder, this was heaven.

Sore but
well rested, I then headed to Curitiba, in south-central Brazil, to speak at
the 37thAnnual Brazilian Congress of Urology. Attended
by 3,000 urologists, this is their biggest meeting of the year.
Under bright lights, I gave several keynote speeches to the entire society, but
also participated in a half-day-long workshop attended by several dozen of
Brazil’s best male reproductive urologists. And I found that the conversations
we had in this tightly knit group of colleagues were as engaging and compelling
as the Brazilian waters I had surfed just a few days earlier.

The Rocky

Here are
some facts about men’s health in Brazil that I learned during my visit:

Similar to
US men, Brazilian men have shorter lives than women. The average lifespan of
Brazilian men is 70 years, which is 8 years less
than Brazilian women. This gender difference in longevity is more significant
than what we have in the US (5 years).

The death
rate of young adult men in Brazil (ages 25-34) is 4-fold higher than
women of the same age.

Death due to
“external causes” (suicide, accidents, violence) among Brazilian men is 5-fold
 than women.

Brazilian men tend to be fitter than ever, they have increasing rates of dying
from alcohol–
related liver disease.

So, exotic
as it is, Brazil is similar to the US when it comes to men’s health: men are
lagging way behind women. For what likely are the same complex reasons we see
in the US, men are relatively medically underserved in Brazil. I sensed
frustration among my doctor friends in Brazil, as they possess leading-edge
knowledge, skills and expertise but have trouble treating patients who don’t
come in for care.

What I also
learned is that Brazil, like Ireland and Australia (and unlike the US),
has a national policy in place…a mandate…to improve health care
in men. This is key to increasing awareness, and awareness is fundamental to
real change. It also lends hope to those in the profession who are trying
awfully hard to help men be the best that they can be. This gives me the same
sensation as a well-surfed wave…it’s all good.

This article first appeared on Dr. Turek’s blog.

Photo by Raphael Nogueira on Unsplash

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