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.

Just before my 11th birthday, I remember my grandfather complaining that his “palate was down.” His home remedy for this condition was to place salt and pepper on the tip of the handle of a spoon and apply it to his uvula. After several weeks of doing this without any relief, my grandmother convinced him to go to the doctor.

My grandfather was diagnosed with advanced stage esophageal cancer. Surgery was attempted, but the cancer had metastasized to other parts of his body and the doctors said there was nothing more they could do. He died six months later.

As we prepare for October 1, 2013, and the six-month open enrollment period to access coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, it is a good time to address men’s health and well-being. Ensuring men take advantage of health care is a family and community affair.

Let’s rally to improve men’s health across the life cycle. As we encourage young people to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace, let’s also urge them to explain the new health insurance options to their grandparents who are under the age of 65. Show them how to enroll. According to the Pew Research Center on Social & Demographic Trends, grandparent primary caregivers are relatively young—more than two-thirds (67%) are younger than 60, with 13% younger than 45. If you or your grandfather is under age 65 and not yet eligible for Medicare, and is without health insurance, now is the time to act!

If family members or friends have questions about The Health Insurance Marketplace, go to the site, now and in the coming weeks and months. Every state will have its own marketplace, easily accessible online or by phone. People who enroll by December 15, 2013.

So, what is standing between you and enrolling in the new Health Insurance Marketplace?

900 Champions Help Americans Understand The Health Insurance Marketplace

A couple signing up for insuranceHealth and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has recognized more than 900 Champions for Coverage nationwide.  These organizations and businesses have volunteered to help Americans without affordable insurance learn more and get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, which opens for business tomorrow and will give consumers a whole new way to shop and purchase affordable, high quality health coverage.

VISIT: Health Insurance Marketplace Channel

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“A network of volunteers on the ground in every state – healthcare providers, business leaders, faith leaders, community groups, advocates, and local elected officials – can help spread the word and encourage their neighbors to get enrolled,” said Secretary Sebelius.

READ: How To Buy Insurance

Champions for Coverage include national and local businesses and organizations – bloggers, community health centers, hospitals, communities of faith, and civic organizations. They will use publicly available materials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) – both digital and in print – to help members of their communities understand their new options through the Marketplace. There are many ways these organizations are helping, including providing information about the law in their office, hosting education events, or posting information on their website.

“We are both excited and thankful to have such a wide variety of businesses and organizations that want to get involved and help us spread the message about these new opportunities for people to access quality, affordable health insurance with open enrollment beginning tomorrow,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “Coverage for those who enroll by December 15 will begin on January 1, 2014.”

READ: Why You Need Health Coverage…NOW!

The growing list of organizations includes:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Nurses Association
  • Bon Secours Health System
  • Men’s Health Network
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • Lutheran Services in America
  • Thrifty White Pharmacy

READ: Low-Cost Health Insurance 101

In all states, there will be people trained and certified to help you understand your health coverage options and enroll in a plan. They will be known by different names, depending on who provides the service and where they are located.  Using the “Find Local Help” tool, you can find information about assisters like Navigators, application assisters, certified application counselors, and government agencies.

READ: What Is A Pre-Existing Condition?

Consumers can also find help at local community health centers and libraries.  The Marketplace consumer call center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-318-2596 (hearing impaired callers using TTY/TDD can dial 1-855-889-4325), with translation services available in 150 languages.  Visit or to learn more or participate in a live chat with a trained customer service representative.

Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace continues for six months. Consumers can apply and choose a plan until the end of March, with coverage beginning as early as Jan. 1, 2014.

To see the list of Champions for Coverage, click here.

To join the growing list of Champions for Coverage, click here