Masculinity and men's health seeking behaviours amongst Black/ African men : the case of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Several researchers have looked at factors that influence men’s health seeking behaviours and the influence of masculinity to get an understanding of men’s underutilisation of health care services. However, not much focus has been placed on South African men and health seeking. This paper looks at factors responsible for shaping men’s health seeking behaviours as well as their reasons for underutilisation of health services. The factors which determine health seeking behaviours amongst men can be influenced by physical accessibility, level of education, employment status, income level, cultural beliefs as well as political. It is imperative to note that the utilisation of both public and private health care is determined by socio-demographic factors, levels of education, religion, cultural beliefs and practices as well as society. Peers also play a fundamental role in the decision to seek health care. The study of men’s health seeking behaviours is imperative as it provides the opportunity to get an understanding of men’s health and how masculinity facilitates underutilisation of health care services and its impact on men’s general health and well-being. This study presents a case of male health seeking behaviour in W Section UMlazi Township conducted in the informal settlements. The study demonstrates vital health related behaviours shaped by the dominant masculine identities that are socially constructed and support men to engage in heavy drinking, drug use and engaging in unprotected sexual activities with multiple concurrent partners which affect men’s health. It indicates that how men view manhood in relation to the masculine dominant discourse has an implication on health care and facilitates delayed health seeking or, even worse, not seeking health care until very late stages of illness. It is also imperative to note that there are other preferred health seeking alternatives such as the use of traditional medicine and cultural rituals as well as religious activities which are practiced in many communities. The case study highlights factors such as the lack of both education and men’s awareness of their own health, thus facilitating their underutilization of health care facilities and services. There is a need to focus on introducing new methods of improving men’s health as well as strengthening educational campaigns which emphasize men’s health and the illnesses which predominantly affect males. There is a demand for policy advocacy focusing on men’s health and the improvement thereof. Policy makers have the responsibility of formulating strategies to make health care facilities user friendly for both genders in order for men to feel comfortable to utilise facilities which were previously viewed as the domain of females. There needs to be a greater understanding of men’s behaviour in order to change attitudes and improve men’s health seeking practices.
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