The greatest challenges facing men’s health: a conversation with AMHF boss Glen Poole
The biggest challenge facing men and boys in Australia is the recognition that men’s health is a social issue, Australian Men’s Health Forum CEO Glen Poole told the hosts of the Penis Project Podcast this week.
Speaking to WA-based physiotherapist Dr Jo Milios and sexologist/nurse practitioner Melissa Hadley Barrett, Glen said men and boys were a population that needed specific health and support. “If there are not advocates putting that on the table, it gets missed over and over again,” he said.
“Our assumption is, that we live in a world that works for men. It’s a man’s world, men are privileged and there’s all these other groups that aren’t doing as well as men are, so we need to do these things specifically for other groups, because men are already taken care of.”
Meanwhile, health outcomes for males continued to lag behind women. Men were four times more likely to die of heart disease before the age of 75 and 75% of all suicides are male. Boys were less educated than girls; men more likely to die at work.
However, there is a lack of an overarching structure at national policy level that filtered down to state and territory men’s health strategies.
“Only two states have anything remotely like a men’s health strategy, WA and NSW, but there is no funding allocated to them,” Glen said, describing these strategies as “Good bits of paper with little weight behind them.”
The National Men’s Health Strategy, rightly places a strong focus on preventative health, but there is less focus on the social and economic determinants of health and wellbeing he said.
By comparison, there are Offices for Women at Federal, State and Territory level that focus both on women’s health in particular and a broad range of social and economic issues that impact women’s lives and health more broadly.
“It’s not an ‘either or’ conversation,” he said, referring to the misperception that the only way to close the health gap was to take money away from women.
“A mature society can say we want to do the best for girls in our society and boys in our society. We are quick to do the black and white. There are still two women dying of suicide each day, that’s a massive issue.”
He said there was no one-size-fits-all approach to improving health outcomes for all Australians, but that the needs of men and women often differ.
“We need to fund services that are specifically aiming to reach men,” he said.
Glen acknowledged that more funding had been allocated towards mental health and suicide prevention, to specifically address men’s issues, and there was an upswell of grassroots-driven projects taking a male-friendly approach to helping men.
Australia had become a leader in men’s health for several reasons: the life expectancy of men was among the highest in the world.
However, there remained a five-year life expectancy gap by being born a male in Australia. A fundamental way to shift the gap was improving boys’ education.
“The longer you stay in education, the longer you live. It is one of the biggest markers of what social outcomes you will have. Our school system is not as good as educating boys as it is to educating girls.
“The level of education we give boys today is directly linked to how good men’s health will be tomorrow.
“If we could get one area of policy onto the public radar to act and address, I would love to see us actively working to improve boys’ education.”