Man was found not guilty at his trial at the European Health Conference in Gastein. EMHF website editor Jim Pollard says it's not before time. If man's 'not guilty', men's health campaigners need to be man enough to name the guilty.
Men’s health campaigners must applaud the finding of man ‘not guilty’ in the EMHF ‘trial’ at Gastein. About time too.
Because, if we are honest, man has been in the dock for a long, long time and it is time that we made it clear that men’s health problems are far from entirely his own fault. No, men’s ill health as we see it today is not inevitable or biological but a modern social phenomenon.
We have had a social model of disability for decades now. Disabled people pointed out that it wasn’t disability that prevented wheelchair users from using buses but the lack of a ramp. Most of the challenges faced by disabled people can be analysed – and solved – in much the same way. The social model – now largely accepted by all governments and policy-makers – has revolutionised the lives of and attitude to disabled people.
Just last month, a report sponsored by the UK government gave us a social explanation for obesity. ‘The causes of obesity are extremely complex encompassing biology and behaviour, but set within a cultural, environmental and social framework,’ said the Foresight report Tackling Obesity – Future Choices.
Humans are predisposed to put on weight by their biology, the report argued. But this was no simple biological determinism. The problem was the failure of society to engage with these realities of human biology. The report went on: ‘Although personal responsibility plays a crucial part in weight gain, human biology is being overwhelmed by the effects of today’s ‘obesogenic’ environment, with its abundance of energy dense food, motorised transport and sedentary lifestyles. As a result, the people of the UK are inexorably becoming heavier simply by living in the Britain of today.’
Of course, obesity is a key issue in men’s health today. Foresight’s modelling estimates that 60% of adult men will be obese by 2050. But this comment could equal be made about men’s health in general: the men of the UK are becoming less healthy simply by living in the Britain of today. Substitute Europe for Britain or the UK and the same surely applies.
It is time for health professionals and policy-makers to change their mindset, to change their attitudes. By seeing men in a certain way they are perpetuating their ill-health in much the same way as they once perpetuated the exclusion of disabled people. Seeing obesity as a social problem is the first step to solving it. We need to see men’s health in the same way. Health is about housing, employment, transport, leisure and every aspect of our lives including the way we run our economies. Society can no longer ignore the basic facts of biology.
At the EMHF trial, Judge Bowis gave man a warning with regard to future behaviour. And nobody who has witnessed the behaviour of some men in certain European town centres on a Saturday night could doubt that this warning was appropriate. But it is plainly wrong to see this as the main cause of men’s ill health. In fact, the desire to do it says more about the society in which these men have been raised than about the individuals themselves.