Guest Post: Advocating for men as a future medical provider

Alex Fatherhood2This blog post was written by AmeriCorps member Alex Tarabochia.

Alex is a member of the 2014-2015 North Florida Health Corps and is currently serving a 10 1/2 month term at the Magnolia Project, an initiative of the Healthy Start Coalition.

Serving as the North Florida Health Corps AmeriCorps member/Male Responsibility Case Manager at the Magnolia Project is an incredibly eye-opening experience. It is showing me how systems both support and take away from the family structure, the barriers to healthcare men face, and the importance of having a holistic approach to health as a future healthcare provider.

My daily service entails several key tasks, including and not limited to identifying useful resources in the community and compiling a resource guide, providing male case management services, and distributing appropriate resource referrals to men in the community. To date, I have identified more than 100 community resources, provided extensive case management services to 19 men, and offered Magnolia services and/or resource referrals to an additional 57 men and counting. This experience helps me see the setbacks men face and the role that I have as a future healthcare provider to help solve this problem.

Men are challenged by flawed policies and a general lack of support from the society that surrounds them. Licenses are revoked and paychecks are seized because of backed child support, which only perpetuate the transportation and economic problems they face. Two parent homes often do not qualify for government subsidized housing because of past criminal records, which further compromises the stability of the home and the successful rearing of children.

Families looking for shelter face the choice to stay on the street or go to facilities that house the men and women/children separately. And men who need health coverage typically do not qualify for Medicaid, regardless of income level or ability to pay. These setbacks push me to help men problem solve and tackle a myriad of challenges. For example, I recently assisted a homeless client find transitional housing and then his own apartment. This has given him the stability necessary to file for joint custody and be a part of his son’s life. Helping clients navigate such setbacks is critical to supporting father involvement and reducing the many health challenges that men and their families face.

As a future physician, this experience is pushing me to think about care on a very holistic level. I see the importance of identifying health barriers men face and being able to point them toward solutions. This requires being knowledgeable of and sharing employment resources available in the community with patients who are unemployed and unable to pay for their medication; being patient with those who miss appointments because the bus is late or they cannot come up with the bus fare; and understanding that unhealthy choices are often paired with everyday stressors such as paying rent, affording groceries and providing for others.

In addition to offering patient care, I realize that I need offer the words of encouragement and support that will help patients step toward the unknown and embrace change. I am grateful for this experience, as it shows me a firsthand account of the problems men face and a chance to identify solutions.