Skip to main content

Thrive4Life’s Benjamin Klein got the chance to interview award-winning men’s health author and advocate Peter Baker.

The two spoke at length about the importance of a holistic approach to men’s health and wellbeing, the importance of overcoming social barriers and stigmas and encouraging open conversation, and the key messages that men need to take home this Movember 2021.

[Please note, this interview was conducted in November 2021].

Read a section of the interview below.

Peter Baker


Benjamin Klein
Ben: Peter, you served as Chief Executive of the Men’s Health Forum for 12 years. You have also served as health editor for a men’s magazine, published two books, been a vocal advocate and campaigner for men’s health issues, and now currently lead the work of Global Action on Men’s Health. How has this vast experience shaped your current perspective on men’s health?
Peter Baker
Peter: If you were to have asked someone 25 years ago about men’s health, they most likely would have spoken about familiar men’s health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer, and erectile dysfunction – the problems that only men are affected by. But over the last two decades, our understanding of men’s health, mine included, has transformed drastically.

We understand now that men’s health is about every health issue that affects men, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and mental health. Of course, many of these affect women as well, which is why men’s health and women’s health objectives should be aligned. My own work has provided me with this broadened perspective.

Likewise, there was always the perception in the past that men were ignorant about their health and wellbeing. But my work, certainly, has given me an appreciation for the ways men’s attitudes are shaped by social and cultural factors. We need to confront and understand these factors if we want to support men’s health in a way that is meaningful and relevant to men.

But that said, not all men view their health in the same way. There are many men out there that do look after themselves, that don’t smoke or drink, and that take plenty of exercise, so we also need to avoid stereotyping.

Benjamin Klein
Ben: The pandemic has of course placed much strain on our ability to keep fit and healthy. Is this something you have grappled with in your work?
Peter Baker
Peter: What I find tragic about the pandemic is the way it has exposed the existing inequalities in men’s health. Not all men have been negatively impacted. The worst affected have been those within marginalised groups – lower income groups, men of colour, and the disabled. These groups have done significantly worse since the start of the pandemic and subsequent restrictions.

But even since before the pandemic, there have been huge inequalities between different groups of men. There are vast differences in life expectancy, to cite one example, between the poorer and more affluent classes. Likewise, between different ethnic groups and between straight and queer (gay, bisexual, transgender etc.) men. Levelling up needs to be seen as an integral component of addressing men’s health and tackling the effects of the pandemic.

Benjamin Klein
Ben: Building on this, what do you regard as the greatest challenge for men’s health?
Peter Baker
Peter: One of the most important challenges involves tackling the social and cultural pressures that shape the way men view their health and wellbeing. Men are frequently taught to bottle things up and avoid speaking openly about their concerns.

As an example, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when talking about masculinity or manliness?

Benjamin Klein
Ben: That men are not supposed to cry?
Peter Baker
Peter: Exactly. It’s simply the way many men are brought up and quite frankly it is dehumanising. Men think they are not allowed to feel vulnerable. As men, we’re only allowed to express part of our humanity. This is disastrous for men’s mental health and wellbeing. Men should be able to ask openly for help when they need it and feel comfortable about expressing themselves. It’s a matter of being more completely human.
Benjamin Klein
Ben: And how exactly can men be made to feel more comfortable talking about their concerns – to become “more completely human”, as you put it?
Peter Baker
Peter: Community-building can play a significant role in anyone’s social life. When men meet up and chat, they are more likely to talk about their problems. Talking has huge health benefits by default. People who are more social have better health and wellbeing outcomes. Talking helps people to learn from each other’s experiences. If you are a business or organisation, consider bringing a health specialist in to start a conversation with your staff.

Community spaces for men, however, also need to be meaningful and relevant to them. Consider practical stuff that many men like doing, such as playing football or going to the pub. Using sports to encourage men to connect and open up comes with many added benefits – you will lose weight and increase your fitness in the process!

Benjamin Klein
Ben: And lastly, Peter, what key message would you like to send to men this Movember?
Peter Baker
Peter: Men don’t like being told what to do. It is often counterproductive to say drink less, do more exercise etc. What I would say to men is think about one thing you would like to do that might improve your health and wellbeing. Think about what practical steps you can take to make this happen.

And of course, think about what you can do to support a men’s health charity, financially or by offering your volunteering support. Movember, after all, is about supporting the many organisations that serve the health and wellbeing of men and boys across the world.

Share this page on your Social Media!

Leave a Reply

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to our email newsletter