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Increasing Health Literacy for Boys; Prevention Starts in Childhood


The most important stage of childhood development happens between birth and the age of six. Numerous studies have shown that early childhood education through social interaction and play is linked to greater life outcomes later on. While much has been written about the link between early childhood education, on-time high school graduation, and post-secondary education, early science-literacy is also linked to a higher life expectancy.

The majority of children are visual learners, meaning that they learn best through pictures and by watching and mimicking adults. As the ratio between public school students and teachers swells, parents can reinforce learning at home through simple, interactive games and by having labeled pictures at home. Keeping an exercise calorie chart in the kitchen or a diagram of a male reproductive system labeled in the bathroom can reinforce health education at school. It can also help to have a visual aid when kids come home with questions about their own bodies and development.

This education is particularly important for boys, as they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors as they grow up and are less likely to visit a doctor when things seem “off.” About 11% of all menwill be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes, and if not spotted in time, it can be fatal.

Fortunately, prostate cancer can be identified with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which detects not only early-stage prostate cancer but also noncancerous abnormalities in the prostate. These preventative screenings can potentially save lives by showing patients the early signs of prostate cancer with plenty of time for treatment. Of course, patients need to be aware in advance of their risk for prostate cancer and should be informed about life-saving preventative care. Raising boys with an awareness of their own bodies and health can increase their longevity later on.

Simple ways to start teaching boys about their own anatomy can include keeping model or diagram of the male reproductive system labeled with each organ. Families that do not speak English at home can keep the male reproductive system labeled in their native language as well. Parents and educators can foster conversations by showing the female reproductive system alongside the male reproductive system labeled with special considerations for women and for men. A meal portion plate or partially drunk glasses can be used at dinnertime to demonstrate fractions and percentages, which can be related to concepts of percent chance and likelihood.

Of course, the best way to teach boys about their own health and wellness starts with open conversation and transparency. A diagram of a male reproductive system labeled with the corresponding organs should be used to start a dialogue about reproductive health. Using the tool to introduce a male reproductive system activity or game reinforces learning. Boys who start learning about their own health at an early age usually continue to do so as they grow older, and that continued interest just might save their lives.

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