Men’s Health Week 2018

Chief Executives of Northern Ireland’s Health Trusts and the RQIA posed for a picture in Belfast this week to show their support for Men’s Health Week (MHW) 2018. Today, the 70+ organisations in the inter-agency all-island Planning Group for Men’s Health Week officially start the countdown to this week. During MHW, local men, communities and service providers are encouraged to take ‘one small step’ to further improve the health and wellbeing of local men and boys.

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Men’s Health Week (MHW) always begins on the Monday before Father’s Day and ends on Father’s Day itself. This year, it will run from Monday 11th until Sunday 17th June. It is celebrated in many European countries, as well as in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and a number of other places worldwide. It is coordinated on the island of Ireland by the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland (MHFI), and supported by the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland and HSE Health Promotion and Improvement in the Republic of Ireland.

Research shows that men on the island of Ireland experience a disproportionate burden of ill-health and die too young. They …

* Die, on average, four and a half years younger than women do.

* Have higher death rates than women for all of the leading causes of death.

* Adopt lifestyles that are responsible for a high proportion of chronic diseases.

* Present late to health services – which leads to a large number of problems becoming untreatable …

This situation has wide-reaching repercussions which stretch far beyond the life satisfaction of men themselves, and impacts upon their families, friends, work colleagues, industry and the economy. Thus, improving the health of men has substantial gains for society as a whole. Men’s Health Week offers an annual opportunity to heighten awareness of preventable health problems, support men and boys to engage in healthier lifestyles, and encourage the early detection and treatment of health difficulties.

Colin Fowler, Director of Operations for the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland comments:

“Almost fifty years ago, Astronaut Neil Armstrong gave us the immortal phrase: ‘One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind’. During Men’s Health Week, people in Ireland are also being asked to do something out of this world. Everyone is encouraged to take at least one small step to improve their own health and the health of males throughout the country. This will certainly lead to a giant leap for men’s health”.

Even small, simple changes can result in significant health improvements for men, and to support the ‘small steps’ key message during Men’s Health Week 2018, MHFI has produced a free 32 page Man Manual. Titled ‘Challenges and Choices’, this publication poses ten practical challenges to men, explains why action is needed in each area, and offers the reader a range of simple and realistic actions to improve their health. To date, over 100,000 hard copies of this booklet have been read by men on the island of Ireland.

Colin Fowler explains:

“Evidence clearly shows that men’s health can be improved in many significant ways – if men are offered positive choices, and are given the support, encouragement and opportunities to succeed. This Man Manual provides the information and the tools, while Men’s Health Week offers the opportunity and a launch pad to make a real change.”

Throughout the week, a number of themes (see Editor’s Notes) will be highlighted each day, and a range of events will take place across the island organised by many of the 70 partner organisations and local groups. Two celebrity ‘Men’s Health Ambassadors’ – ex-Rugby player / coach and TV commentator Brent Pope and former Clare hurling star and GAA commentator Jamesie O’Connor – are helping to raise awareness of Men’s Health Week 2018 by drawing upon their own personal experiences of taking small steps to overcome health difficulties.

Jamesie O’Connor, former GAA All-Star player and current pundit:

“I am delighted to support Men’s Health Week because as a teacher and a coach, I see the importance of challenging unhelpful stereotypes and supporting boys and

young men to develop good habits in relation to their health early in life. When boys are encouraged and supported to mind their physical and mental wellbeing it then becomes normal to them throughout their lives. Parents, teachers and coaches all need to work together to set boys on the right track to good health.”

Brent Pope, rugby pundit and well known mental health advocate added:

“As somebody that has suffered with severe anxiety most of my life, I want to see more men get a better understanding and awareness of their own mental health so they can live healthier lives and be able to maintain their health and wellbeing. I always felt less of a man for asking for help and I don’t want others to feel that way, unlike in my day. Today, there are great organisations and resources out there that can help and who want to reach out specifically to men.”

Men’s Health Week offers an opportunity for a broad range of health professionals, service providers, youth groups, sporting bodies, community organisations, employers, Churches, policy makers, family workers, pharmacists … to do something practical to improve the health of local men and boys. During MHW, everyone is asked to be self-reflective and to answer the question: ‘what’s your small step going to be?’

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