WASHINGTON – A free medical screening is the last thing two high school seniors expected during their trip to the nation's capital,but it might be just what the doctor ordered.
One third of 18- to 29-year-old men have not visited a doctor in the past year,and 7 million men have not been to a doctor in 10 years,according to Spike TV press material.
“I kind of want to find out my body fat percentage,” said Chris Meisner of Williams Bay,Wisc.,as he stood in line for a screening. “I think this is a good idea – it's good to do something with men's health.”
Meisner and Rylan Dirksen,both 18 and here on their senior trip,stumbled upon the Spike TV “Check Up or Check Out” campaign at Union Station Tuesday. They said they had some free time and were more than happy at the possibility of being on television.
“We're from Wisconsin. We don't see a lot of big events like this,” Dirksen said. “I think men are afraid of doctors – they don't normally get everything checked up regularly.”
The national campaign aims to encourage 100,000 men this year and 2 million men by 2006 to visit their doctors for a physical. Spike TV,a cable network with programming geared toward men,partnered with Men's Health Network and the National Medical Association to host the free screenings.
In six to seven minutes,men could have their blood pressure,heart rate,body mass index,body fat and eyesight checked,said Debra Fazio,Spike TV communication director. Ten booths were set up at Union Station,which was chosen for it's “high-traffic,central location,” she said.
“We're encouraging men to take care of their bodies like they do cars,” Fazio said.
Screening participants got a bag with items such as water bottles and a wallet card checklist for both health and car maintenance. Along with checking the oil and rotating tires,the card recommends 10 health tests men should have done annually.
“If your pipes clog,the engine could stop,” the card advises in promoting cholesterol testing.
Albie Hecht,president of Spike TV,said it's hard to get men excited about health issues.
“We're going to scare them,bribe them – whatever it takes to get them to take a checkup,” Hecht said.
The bribing will come once the campaign's Web site is launched. Hecht said the site will feature a sweepstakes for men who get checkups with “boy-toys,” such as plasma screen televisions,as prizes.
Hecht said he expected the campaign's message to reach at least 200 men in the two hours that screenings were available at Union Station.
The next stop for the approximately $5 million “Check Up or Check Out” is New York, but no other stops have been set,Fazio said.
Mike Leventhal,director of the Tennessee chapter of Men's Health Network,said he hopes the campaign will visit Memphis,Tenn.
“Memphis is one of Spike TV's largest media markets and one of the most unhealthiest cities in the U.S.,” Leventhal said as he helped register men for screenings. “I think people,especially men,are becoming more concerned about their health. Once they see what's going on,they're excited.”