Initiative Reaches More than 35,000 Minority Men
Minority Men’s Health Fair and Minority Men’s Health Center at Cleveland Clinic are “friendly portals of entry” to the healthcare system aimed at reducing disparities for underserved populations.
Cleveland Clinic urologist and kidney transplant surgeon Charles Modlin, MD, MBA, took his father’s words to heart: “Nobody cares about black men,” his father said decades ago. “It’s your responsibility to use the knowledge and education you were fortunate enough to receive, an opportunity not everyone has had, to help our community.”
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The first man in his family to graduate from high school, Dr. Modlin began noticing health disparities in minority populations when he was a kidney transplant fellow in the early ’90s. His father had to leave high school at age 17 to enlist in the Navy during WWII. His mother, an elementary school teacher, stressed the importance of education starting when her son was very young.
“My father said those words to me many times over the years, from the time I was a young boy—probably about 8 or 10 years old,” Dr. Modlin recalls. “What he said resonated with me; I remember his words vividly. I used those words and their meaning as motivation to establish our Minority Men’s Health Center and Minority Men’s Health Fair, and to do much of the community outreach that I do.”
The disparities still exist. African-Americans are six times more likely to develop kidney failure from hypertension. They are less likely to receive kidney transplants and more likely to reject the ones they do receive. Hispanic men are more likely than whites to have diabetes and diabetes-related kidney failure, and to die from it.
“After I completed my kidney transplant fellowship and joined the staff at Cleveland Clinic in May 1996, I started going out to community centers and churches, talking to men about the importance of health screenings and not waiting for symptoms,” Dr. Modlin says. “Some people just weren’t educated about preventive care. Others avoided it because of a generational distrust of the healthcare system.”
Dr. Modlin realized that before they could access preventive care, minority men needed a “friendly portal of entry” to the healthcare system. In 2003, he founded the Minority Men’s Health Fair at Cleveland Clinic. That gave rise to the Minority Men’s Health Center in 2004.
Among the first of its kind, the center at Cleveland Clinic remains one of the nation’s only minority men’s health programs not in existence due to a grant or research study.
“The Minority Men’s Health Center isn’t based on a special project,” says Dr. Modlin. “It’s based on putting patients first and developing strong connections to the community to engage and empower men of color in particular (as well as underserved men regardless of race or ethnicity) to adopt healthier lifestyles, become knowledgeable about the importance of and routine health checkups and to take steps to improve their health.”
In addition to providing health screenings and wellness information, the Minority Men’s Health Center offers primary care at three locations around Greater Cleveland and referrals to Cleveland Clinic specialists. The center also spearheads research and educates the public and medical providers about minority health concerns. There is growing evidence that certain conditions or diseases present differently in minorities, and therefore health screening recommendations or treatments need to be based upon one’s race or ethnicity.
The Minority Men’s Health Fair continues to be the center’s – and Cleveland Clinic’s — signature community event. With representatives from dozens of Cleveland Clinic specialties offering free screenings and services, as well as from community groups, corporate sponsors and nonprofits, it’s the largest clinical community outreach initiative hosted at Cleveland Clinic each year. Hundreds of Cleveland Clinic caregivers volunteer at the fair.
At the 15th annual fair in April 2017, over 1,000 attendees received nearly 5,600 health screenings. More than 500 of those screenings — for chronic kidney disease, hepatitis C, prostate cancer, oral cancer and other conditions — reported abnormalities.
For many, the Minority Men’s Health Fair has been a lifesaver.
The first year, 35 men came to the fair. Since then, more than 35,000 have received screenings, health education and consults, and help with patient navigation.
“Before he passed away in 2010, my father would attend the fairs and stand at my side, watching the men come in,” says Dr. Modlin. “It’s not just the disadvantaged or unemployed who come. The fair attracts men of all social strata, which is critically important to emphasize because healthcare and health disparities are not limited to lower income brackets.
“My father and I both recognized and felt grateful that Cleveland Clinic and its healthcare providers do care about black men.”
Over time, Dr. Modlin expects steeper declines in the mortality rates that disproportionately afflict populations of color, thanks to more health screenings and earlier detection of disease, especially for prostate and colorectal cancers.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” he says. “Even though the Minority Men’s Health Center and Health Fair are open and available for all men to attend, regardless of race or ethnicity, labeling and specifically naming the center and fair for ‘minority men’ welcomes this population and motivates the men to seek screenings and adopt healthy lifestyles. It stresses, ‘Preventive healthcare is for you.’”