Grandfathers

    A grandfather blowing bubbles while his smiling grandson watchesMen’s Health Month and Father’s Day were officially celebrated in June, but as wives, daughters, and partners, every day we recognize the unique social, cultural, and economic challenges affecting men’s health and particularly men of color.

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    I’m excited about the growing attention to men’s health as evidenced by the number of scientific journals devoted to men’s health, as well as new investments in research involving men of color. For example, our sister agency, the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health recently awarded a grant to Hampton University – in partnership with five other historically black colleges and universities, to conduct “innovative trans-disciplinary research to effectively reduce health disparities in minority men.”1 Once understudied, there is more research emerging in the literature to inform public health practice intending to improve health outcomes among men of color. The July 2013 special issue of the American Journal of Men’s Health, for example, focuses on theoretical frameworks, interventions, and qualitative and quantitative analyses needed to better explain and address preventable health disparities among African American men.

    While grandparents who serve as primary caregivers for their grandchildren are disproportionately black and Hispanic, the increase in grandparent primary caregiving across the decade has been much more pronounced among whites.

    So, why write a blog about grandfathers? One child in ten in the United States lives with a grandparent. About four in ten (41%) of those children who live with a grandparent (or grandparents) are also being raised primarily by that grandparent.

    Some 62% of grandparent caregivers are female, and 38% are men.3 Grandfathers can play an important nurturing role with grandchildren, and there is growing evidence that engaged grandfathers experience better mental health as they age.

    I have very fond memories of my own grandfather. He was tall, dark, and handsome; strong and lean. When I was a little girl, he would meet me after school, and we’d walk home together. My grandmother gave him the responsibility for making sure I practiced my piano lessons. Invariably, he would fall asleep while I played the piano, and I would have to wake him to ask permission to go outside and play. When my grandfather was happy, he would sing “Hello Dolly” – a popular song of the late jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong.

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