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Why primary care is important, especially for Black men in America

Black men have the lowest life expectancy and the highest death rates compared to other racial and ethnic groups, but many of these deaths are preventable.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Over the next several months or for as long as it takes, WHAS11 is committing to a series of stories that will bring awareness to some staggering statistics, with the hope of saving lives and communities.

Those stats surround black men and primary medical care. This topic is very important to WHAS11's Eric King, read why here.

Black men in the United States suffer worse health than any other racial group in the country.

Black men have the lowest life expectancy and the highest death rates compared to both men and women of other racial and ethnic groups.

While there are several reasons that help contribute to this, like barriers to healthcare and affordable health services, one of the biggest factors is hesitancy or reluctance to seek regular primary care, even when barriers to healthcare are not a factor.

Having a primary care provider establishes a partner for your health, but 1 in 4 men do not have one. African American men, especially, are less likely than all other minority groups to seek primary care, preventative care, or health care in general.

“I think when you look at the causes of people who have diseases that cause a decrease in their quality of life, or diseases that cause people to pass away before their expected life or a life expectancy, a lot of those things are preventable,” said Dr. L. Madison Ryle, M.D., Internal Medicine Physician at Norton Community Medical Associates-Shepherdsville. 

“If you have a relationship with a primary care doctor, you can catch a lot of those things. You can catch diabetes, you can catch high blood pressure, you can catch cancer in early stages, and change those outcomes,” he said.

Dr. Ryle says, far too many people wait until they are sick or in crisis to see a doctor. And, that alone- can lead to life-threatening or life-ending outcomes. 

“If you can catch things like high blood pressure early, you can prevent poor outcomes later,” he said. “When you start having symptoms from diabetes and high blood pressure or cancer, there’s a lot of damage already done, and there’s a lot of disability that can come from that.”

Primary care doctors screen for high blood pressure, different cancers, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, and the list goes on. 

These ailments, along with strokes, are among the top killers of black men- who, even when barriers like insurance and access to healthcare don’t exist, still often avoid primary care.

“Unfortunately, when we look at the prevalence for instances of kidney failure, it is strikingly different in African-Americans- specifically African-American males compared to their white counterparts,” Dr. Ryle said. 

“And, the causes of kidney disease in America are diabetes, high blood pressure, amongst other things, but those are two of the biggest. Those are modifiable things. Those are things that if caught and treated early, you can prevent those poor outcomes," he said.

To learn more about how to find a primary care provider near you, visit Norton Healthcare's website.

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