Men urged to take 'small step' to better health

This week is Men's Health Week 2018
  • Deborah Condon

Men continue to experience higher death rates from all leading causes of death, and die an average of four-and-a-half years younger than women, the Men's Health Forum in Ireland (MHFI) has said.

However, it is encouraging men to take ‘one small step' towards improving their health and wellbeing, as research shows that preventable risk factors account for a high proportion of male illnesses.

The issue is being highlighted as part of Men's Health Week, which runs until Father's Day (June 17). This event is celebrated in a number of countries worldwide and is coordinated in Ireland by the MHFI.

It aims to increase awareness of preventable health problems and encourage men and boys to engage in healthier lifestyles. It also focuses on the early detection and treatment of health problems.

Ireland was the first country in the world to adopt a National Men's Health Policy, however men here still experience higher death rates from all leading causes of death compared to women. This can have major consequences not only for the men involved, but also their families, friends, colleagues and the economy.

"This is a great opportunity to prompt men and boys across Ireland to look after their own health and wellbeing. I would encourage everyone to take small steps to live healthier lives and to ensure they get regular check-ups," commented the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.

A number of events will be taking place nationwide throughout Men's Health Week and these will be organised by many of the MHFI's 70 partner organisations and local groups. Issues covered during the week will include cancer, nutrition, physical activity, healthy relationships and the importance of fathers to children's outcomes.

Men's health ambassador and former GAA player, Jamesie O'Connor, said he is delighted to support this important event.

"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 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," he commented.

Meanwhile, fellow ambassador and rugby pundit, Brent Pope, emphasised the importance of good mental health.

"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," he said.

To support the ‘small steps' key message during Men's Health Week 2018, the MHFI has produced a free 32-page manual, entitled Challenges and Choices. It poses 10 practical challenges to men and offers them 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 Irish men.

"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 manual provides the information and the tools, while Men's Health Week offers the opportunity and a launch pad to make a real change," commented Dr Stephanie O'Keeffe of the HSE.

She added that the HSE is working with organisations such as the Irish Men's Sheds Association, Sport Ireland and the Irish Heart Foundation, in order to ‘deliver programmes to men at community level and support other health and social services in their work targeting men'.

Men's Health Week runs from June 11-17. For more information on the event, click here

*Pictured is the Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne, along with members of the all-island Planning Group for Men's Health Week, senior staff from Healthy Ireland and the HSE's Health Promotion and Improvement Division, and Men's Health Week 2018 ambassadors, Brent Pope and Jamesie O'Connor


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