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Opinion: Warning! This article could seriously improve your health

Men: celebrate your health by taking this practical, 10-step challenge…

Image: Zai Aragon via Shutterstock

NOT TOO LONG long ago, we were unaware of the full extent of Irish men’s poor health and the specific health issues that they face. However, in recent years, a broad range of research has highlighted the health difficulties which confront men in Ireland. This shows that local men experience a disproportionate burden of ill-health and die too young…

  • Men die, on average, four-and-a-half years younger than women do
  • Males have higher death rates than women for all of the leading causes of death
  • Poor lifestyles are responsible for a high proportion of chronic diseases
  • Late presentation to health services leads to a large number of problems becoming untreatable.

Is there any good news? Well, Men’s Health Week 2014 seeks to change this situation, and to radically improve the health of men and boys in Ireland. The theme this year is: ‘Challenges, Choices and Celebrations – What’s Your Aim?’)

Challenges and choices

Evidence clearly shows that there are many challenges to be faced when seeking to improve the health of men. However, it also highlights that men’s health can be improved in many significant ways – if we make the right choices. Men, themselves, have a key role to play in this process, but they require support, encouragement and opportunities to succeed.

However, men’s health is not just an issue for individual men. It is everyone’s business. While it is crucial for men to take responsibility for looking after themselves, their health can often be determined by other factors outside of their personal control. Thus, there is also a need for policy-makers and service providers/commissioners to recognise the role that they need to play, and to do something tangible about it. Indeed, Men’s Health Week this year asks everyone: ‘What’s Your Aim?’

Take-up a practical challenge

To support Men’s Health Week 2014, the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland has produced a new, free, 32 page mini-manual for men. This booklet – titled ‘Challenges and Choices’- opens with the statement: ‘WARNING… READING THIS MANUAL CAN SERIOUSLY IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH’, and goes on to issue a series of ten simple, practical challenges to Irish men:

1. Order a soft drink the next time you’re in the pub
2. Try some fruit or vegetables you’ve never tasted before or think you don’t like
3. Make at least one journey by foot or bicycle instead of going by ca
4. If you’re under 25 and sexually active, get yourself checked for chlamydia
5. Stressed out? Walk away from tense situations before you blow up
6. Find out about the opening hours at your local GP’s surgery
7. Get your blood pressure checked within the next two weeks
8. Get a mate to quit smoking with you – and get advice on how to stop
9. Show a doctor that lump, strange-shaped mole, or rash that’s bothering you
10. If you get backache, don’t let it become a pain in the ass. Get it sorted.

Each challenge is accompanied by a reason why it is important to take action, a menu of possible choices available, and where to find help. Most importantly, it provides this information in a straightforward, step-by-step, humorous and commonsense way. After all, it was written by a man!

Let’s celebrate

Frequently, we simply blame men for their own state of health, focus upon the shortcomings of individuals, and concentrate upon the negative behaviours of males. Ireland may not be through to the final stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but Men’s Health Week 2014 calls upon everyone to celebrate the important contributions that males make to our society, and to do their bit to improve the lot of men and boys. That must, certainly, be worth a beer (sorry, freshly squeezed orange juice) or two.

Colin Fowler is the Director of Operations for the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland (MHFI). MHFI is a diverse network of individuals and organisations, men and women, from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

MHFI seeks to promote all aspects of the health and well being of men and boys on the island of Ireland through research, training, networking, health initiatives and advocacy. More details can be found at: www.mhfi.org

Column: Men need to go to the doctor. Here’s why.

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Colin Fowler

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