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Men, here's a friendly reminder about making healthy choices

I strolled into my neighborhood Publix to grab a couple of items last month and ended up talking to a complete stranger.

He looked in my cart and saw a loaf of honey wheat bread that delivers a whopping 70 calories a slice.

"Hey, what are you doing with that?" he asked incredulously. "This is what you should buy," he added, grabbing a loaf that boasted 40 calories a slice. "I've learned so much about nutrition since I got diagnosed with diabetes.

"We've got to look out for each other."

The whole moment brought to mind the Men's Health Forum that Moffitt Cancer Center will present at the University of South Florida's Marshall Center on March 17.

First and foremost, the forum strives to fill a gap for the uninsured and the under-insured, offering free screenings for a laundry list of potential problems including blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, diabetes, lung function, hepatitis and skin cancer.

The forum, in English and Spanish, also offers seminars and an information session for those who want a voucher for a prostate examination. A comedian will begin the morning with a little entertainment, and some of the more than 100 volunteers will serve a free breakfast and lunch for the nearly 1,000 attendees.

Yes, it's free.

However, there's an intangible even more valuable.

In my previous visits to the forum, camaraderie proved to be as much a part of the event as doctors and tests. I still remember huddling under an umbrella on a rainy day with former Bucs defensive end Council Rudolph as we waited to enter a mobile clinic.

An unspoken bond and sense of responsibility connected the men, largely because they made the decision to take charge of their health.

Finally.

Too often, the day-to-day focus and sense of invincibility clouds the judgment of men and leaves them plowing ahead with stubbornness, naivete or apathy. It's a challenge the forum sought to address when Bob Samuels started the program in 2000, and it remains a focus now that Moffitt officials have assumed the reins.

"Even in my own home, I make an appointment for my husband," said Nikki Ross Inda, who coordinates a healthy kids program for Moffitt and is helping with publicity for the forum. "He goes to the doctor, but I set the standard."

So often, it's the woman behind the man who drives him to make his health a priority, and hopefully that will be the case again with the forum. In these tough economic times, men who are compelled to work two jobs, suffered a reduction in benefits or who are unemployed all deal with the notion that job and income deserve a higher priority.

But you can't help anyone else unless you help yourself.

Admittedly, room for improvement exists with my own health choices. I'm actually going to work out with the co-hosts of Community Conversations, the weekly health-oriented radio show that airs every Saturday on WTBN (AM 910 and AM 570) from 10 a.m. to noon.

I publish that not to boast, but to put pressure on myself to actually follow through. If I put it in print, I have to do it, right?

And in case you're wondering, I am eating the lower-calorie bread. It's pretty good.

In the end, the new friend I met at Publix couldn't have been more accurate.

We do need to look out for each other.

That's all I'm saying.

Men, here's a friendly reminder about making healthy choices 03/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 3:30am]
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