For the last several years, a group of researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center has pored over studies to determine the health risks facing minority males in the state.
From a higher propensity for developing chronic kidney disease at an earlier age to having on average a shorter life span, the statistics have shown a health-care disparity among minority males, particularly African-American men, said Dr. Marino Bruce, director of the Center of Health for Minority Males (C-HMM), part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities.
The reasons are numerous, the answers murky. But the lack of a primary health-care physician - or medical home - among minority males is one of the first problems believed to face the population, said Bruce, an affiliate faculty member at UMMC's School of Medicine and professor of criminal justice and sociology at Jackson State University.
"The question that we have to ask and have answered is, 'What are the ways in which we can encourage minority males in particular to have a medical home?'" said Bruce.
"Minority males - particularly African-American males - don't have medical homes, but that's the group that's most likely to have early onset of disease," he added.
Bruce said African-American males have the shortest lifespans among populations, and when looking at heart disease, kidney disease and cancer, the same group tends to have an earlier onset.
"Hypertension," he added. "We're talking about hypertension in folks that are barely 20 years old. College-age African-American males are twice as likely to have hypertension as white males the same age."
The increased likelihood of African-American males developing hypertension at a younger age - even in their 20s - can be further compounded by weight issues, said Bruce. This increases the risk of a serious cardiac event to four or five times greater than healthy individuals.
"And both of those are largely preventable," said Bruce.
These issues - their causes and, it is hoped, solutions - are why C-HMM is around, said Bruce.
"The disparities among men of color, particularly African-American males, compared to their Caucasian counterparts is a national problem," said Dr. Bettina Beech, UMMC's associate vice chancellor for population health and director of the Evers-Williams Institute.