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Boys' Health

We Teach Boys The Very Attitudes and Behaviors That Kill Them

Three out of four children who die are boys. Each day, 18 boys aged 14 years or younger die in the U.S. Nearly all of these deaths are violent — the result of injury, suicide and homicide.

But the issue it is not just violence. Boys and men are more likely than girls and women to engage in over 50 behaviors that increase their risk for disease and injury. These behaviors can have life-long consequences. Boys are less likely to wear safety belts or bike helmets, use sun protection, and are more likely to carry weapons, use tobacco and drugs, and to drink alcohol heavily, for example.

Boys also eat more fat and salt, fewer fruits and vegetables, and drink more soda. Consequently, more boys are overweight and have prediabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels, and a cluster of factors linked with heart disease. These unhealthy behaviors typically continue into adulthood.

In his presentations and trainings to schools, communities and medical centers, Dr. Will Courtenay demonstrates how we unwittingly teach boys the very attitudes and behaviors that increase their health risks. Parents, for example, are much less concerned about the safety of their sons, despite boys being at much greater risk. In fact, they are more likely to encourage risky activities among their sons than their daughters.

Many of these lessons boys learn are linked with rules about becoming a “real” man — which Dr. Courtenay calls the “Playbook for Manhood.” A boy who lives by these rules, would:

Takes risks without worrying about his safety

Think he's invulnerable to any physical harm

Be self-sufficient, and never ask for help

Have little knowledge about health

Keep his feelings to himself, with the exception of anger

See violence as a normal part of everyday life

In fact, this is what we see in boys, far more often than in girls. Dr. Courtenay identifies exactly how we, as a society, teach boys to live by these rules — and most importantly, what science tells us about what we all need to do to help boys become healthy men.

 
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