Many decades of research have shown that black men tend to have some of the worst health indicators among all racial and ethnic groups in America. A new brief from the American Public Health Association, “All Health is Connected: Can Leveraging Women’s Health Care Help Narrow Gaps in Black Men’s Health?” discusses a possible solution to these health problems. Can the health care community use prenatal and pregnancy care as an opportunity to also narrow gaps in black men’s health?

The report outlines a strategy involving health care providers in clinical and community settings. Providers work with women and their partners to uncover and address their family’s health challenges, tackling not just the family’s pregnancy-related health needs, but male family members’ health as well. This approach not only employs quality improvement and value-based care, but also acknowledges the root causes of intergenerational health disparities.

APHA’s new brief outlines four ways for providers to leverage prenatal and postpartum care to help black men achieve better health:

Use community health workers to help patients and their partners navigate the health system.

Community health workers are already an integral part of many prenatal care settings, and research has acknowledged they are primed to advance health equity and increase cultural competency. By involving them in care, patients will have better resources with which to navigate the health care system.

Become a source of men’s health information.

Practitioners can offer men important resources like health tips and basic information on preventive men’s health screenings, and encourage physical activity and healthy diets. Since providers may already be familiar with their female patient’s lifestyle and home life, they can also offer men more personalized information about their individual health.

Facilitate access to health insurance.

The research is clear – having health insurance can lead to better health. This report suggests that prenatal and postpartum care providers engage with insurance enrollment and organize, host and promote opportunities for men to get insured. Access to information on insurance could also give men the opportunity to access information on public programs and resources such as food assistance and job training.

Embed men’s health in home-visiting programs and clinical public health programs.

Some maternal and child health home-visiting programs already engage in men’s health when they visit families, but the report suggests these programs formalize those activities to drive momentum and close black men’s health disparities.

Easing health disparities for black men will require long-term, collaborative and community-driven health efforts, but prenatal and postpartum medical and public health practitioners have a unique opportunity to be part of the solution.

Read and download the full report.

“Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now” is the theme of APHA’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Expo. Learn more about the meeting and register to attend starting June 4.