Research News

2020 Tennessee Men’s Health Report Card: Overall improvement, work to be done

Men’s health across Tennessee is trending toward improvement, according to the 2020 Tennessee Men’s Health Report Card, but racial and geographic disparities persist.  

Compiled by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Research on Men’s Health in cooperation with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Tennessee Department of HealthMeharry Medical College and the Tennessee Men’s Health Network, the TMHRC reports the state of health and well-being in men across Tennessee and is used to guide policy advocacy and practices across the state.  

Derek Griffith
Derek Griffith

Derek M. Griffith, professor of medicine, health and society and founder and director of the CRMH, led the development of the fifth report card.  

“Men’s health seems to be hidden in plain sight. We’ve known for more than 100 years that men have a shorter life span than women, but men’s health tends not to get the attention that the health profile suggests it deserves,” Griffith said. “This is not to take resources away from women’s health or maternal child health but to recognize that men’s health also is important to our families, communities and state.” 

The purpose of this report card is to advocate for the inclusion of mens health in policy initiatives and funding streams meant to benefit all Tennesseans, and to help dispel the myth that improving men’s health can be reduced to changing men’s unhealthy behavior, Griffith explains.  

Key findings include: 

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for white, Black and Hispanic men in Tennessee; 
  • Between 1975 and 2018, the difference in prostate cancer mortality rates between Black and white men decreased, while the difference in colon, rectal, lung and bronchus cancer mortality rates between Black and white men grew; 
  • From 2014 to 2018, men had higher rates of death caused by opioid overdose than women, and white men’s opioid overdose rate was almost twice that of Black men; 
  • Men in East Tennessee had higher rates of opioid overdose death than men in Middle or West Tennessee; 
  • 60 percent of traumatic brain injury patients were male; 
  • Non-Hispanic Black males account for more than half of males newly diagnosed with HIV in 2018 despite being only 16 percent of the male population in the state. 

Griffith sees data as a means to promoting health equity by helping to illustrate that men’s health patterns and issues are significant and diverse. His team worked closely with the Tennessee Department of Health to identify different data that could shed light on emerging and longstanding issues in men’s health across the state  

In addition to data included in previous report cards, this year the researchers added substantive information on Hispanic menopioid overdose and traumatic brain injury for the first time. This report card also includes a historical and contextualized analysis of cancer-related deaths.  

Griffith shares that we should celebrate the successes of improvements in men’s health across the state and should remain vigilant in addressing the work left to be done.