On average, American men are now living shorter, less healthy lives than females, statistics show, and infrequent visits to the doctor are largely to blame, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.


Holmes Murphy & Associates Inc. has compiled some compelling health statistics that indicate women make nearly twice as many preventative care visits as men. The West Des Moines-based insurance broker is seeking to raise awareness of men's health issues during June, which is Men's Health Month.


In 1920, women lived an average of one year longer than men. Now, on average, men die almost five years earlier than women in the United States, according to CDC data. And women are 100 percent more likely to visit a doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men.


"Culturally, it seems that women are typically drivers of the health care (decisions) in the household," said Jen Kivlin, co-leader of Holmes Murphy's Heartland Division, which includes its Iowa and Sioux Falls, S.D., employee benefits offices. "So we try to make sure that they are the key recipients of the message -- getting those appointments made and pushing to get that care done."


Establishing a relationship with a family physician is important because it can help men to head off significant health issues that are preventable, Kivlin said. And that can save their employers money as well.


"Most claims through employers are centered around four conditions that are preventable -- really. Where we focus are diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and musculoskeletal disorders. Those four conditions are often, though not always, related to unhealthy lifestyles."


Being uninsured is also a factor. Despite seeing a recent national drop in uninsured adults, many men in Iowa -- 13 percent of male adults under 65 -- remain without coverage, according to data from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Nationally, 20 percent of men remain without health insurance, compared with 17 percent of women under 65.


Among the first steps for men seeking to improve their health is to "know their numbers" -- such as blood pressure and body mass index -- by taking advantage of diagnostic screenings through their physician or employer, Kivlin said.  


"We work with employers to help design programs to engage the workforce and to participate in programs that can have a meaningful result," she said.


The Iowa Clinic for the past year and a half has specifically targeted this issue with its ad campaign, "Be a Man. Go to the Doctor." That campaign, which features actual male patients wearing the dreaded blue exam gown, has resulted in an overall increase in male patients, said Jessica Grant, marketing manager for The Iowa Clinic.


"Our research indicates that by increasing awareness of men's health issues, it engages patients to seek out healthcare," she said. "As a healthcare organization, we have an obligation to promote health and well-being to both men and women."


Because the increases vary by specialty, Grant declined to provide figures on how much the ads have influenced visits.