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Health Team

Study: N.C. Men Lacking Health Insurance

Posted January 24, 2007 5:00 p.m. EST
Updated January 24, 2007 7:21 p.m. EST

— A new report shows a lack of health insurance is a growing problem in North Carolina.

As part of a national grant called FirstHealth Community Voices funded by the Kellogg Foundation, researchers analyzed federal and North Carolina health data from 1999 to 2005 for the North Carolina Men's Health Report Card. The results compared state health statistics to the national average.

They found men in North Carolina die at a higher rate, than the national average, from some of the top 10 causes of death, including heart disease, prostate and lung cancers, stroke, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease.

Most of the diseases might be prevented if men received proper health care through early screening and follow-up treatment.

One reason many men do not is because they have to pay for it out-of-pocket. They need health insurance to help cover the cost. The report scores North Carolina with Ds and Fs in that area, according to Roxanne Leopper with FirstHealth of the Carolinas, one of eight sites across the nation with the national grant project.

Nationally, 20.6 percent of men had no health insurance. In North Carolina, 25 percent of men did not have health insurance. For black men in the state, more than 30 percent of men lack health insurance.

If men don't have it, often, neither do their families, experts say.

"If you're not employed at a company that provides health insurance, then it's really a challenge for men to get coverage," said Dr. William Alexander with the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

He was the keynote speaker Monday at the North Carolina Men's Health Summit in Chapel Hill, where the results of the report were announced.

Alexander wants men to become better stewards of their own health. One trend in the report shows more men are getting screened for diseases such as prostate cancer, but the death rate in North Carolina doesn't reflect it.

"So, the data is showing something there and showing that men are getting some of the screenings, but maybe they're not taking the action or maybe the screenings are coming too late," Leopper said. "Or maybe, some men can't afford the treatment after screening."

FirstHealth Community Voices and health advocates at the North Carolina Men's Health Summit hope the report will spur policy changes to make health care more accessible and health insurance more affordable.

They also hope to make men more aware about what they can do to prevent serious illness.

Just by not smoking, men and women can greatly reduce their risk for lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic lower respiratory disease. Following recommended screening for colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer can cut their risk for those major killers as well.