Men’s Health – a sea change is taking place

Are you worried about your Man?

24th July 2017

L-R: Edel Byrne, Health & Wellbeing Co-ordinator; Marty Morrissey, Irish Sports Commentator; T.P O’Gorman, Shedder; Barry Sheridan, CEO Men’s Sheds; Fergal Fox, HSE Leinster.

On Thursday July 20th, Diabetes Ireland attended the launch of a new website, an initiative by Men’s Sheds. The website encourages men to treat their body as well as they do a car they love. The launch was exciting as it revealed the beginning of a sea-change in how Irish men will cope in the future with life challenges, including health.

To Join a Men’s Shed: You just have to be a man

There are 400 sheds in villages, towns and cities across Ireland with approximately 2 new sheds opening every month. The only requirement to join a shed is to be a man. Men meet in the sheds to share skills, meet others in their community and talk and it seems they are beginning to talk about more than sport and politics. They are beginning to talk about health.

In 2017, the IMSA launched its new Sheds for Life initiative, building on the hard work of shedders throughout Ireland in making men’s sheds inherently health-promoting and life-enhancing spaces for men of all ages and backgrounds. With Irish men reported as having the highest Body Mass Index (BMI) in Europe, health was the key issue to address in the sheds. Traditionally in Ireland, men are raised to provide for their family and be strong. In comparison to women, most men are notoriously slow to visit their GP and in general men don’t talk about their emotional, mental or physical health. So how is this sea change coming about?

Sea Change: Irish Men are beginning to talk health to each other

In January 2017, Diabetes Ireland initiated a pilot project with 4 Men’s Sheds in Westmeath. Sinead Powell, Dietitian and Vicky Doyle, Health Promotion, were warmly welcomed into the sheds to share their knowledge on healthy living with over 50 men. There were 3 sessions between January and July, full of fun, laughter and with great learning taking place that led to real change in behaviours. There was no “wagging of fingers”. The informal setting where professionals entered the men’s safe space set the tone and removed any fear of being judged or blamed.  Metrics such as weight, movement (number of steps) and attitude were all assessed and monitored. The initial results of this small pilot study are very promising:

  • In Kilbeggan 95% of all of the men lost weight and the remainder  maintained their weight.
  • The Kilbeggan men took to wearing a pedometer like duck to water and all improved their level of physical activity. One ‘shedder’ who previously struggled up a hill in Thurles on match day with his son, “flew up the hill” as his fitness improved and reports a heightened awareness of his health status and a new confidence in managing and maintaining it.
  • All in the Mullingar shed reported good weight-loss and those with an existing diagnosis of Diabetes reported improved HbA1c results with 1 man recording a weight-loss of 3 stone by just walking and reducing food portion size.
  • At the launch, T.P O’Gorman remarked that families are commenting to him that their relative was “happier”, “brighter” and in “better form” having joined a Men’s Shed.
  • Barry Sheridan, CEO reported that 90% of men who have joined a shed report a better sense of wellbeing

So it would appear that it does not take much to motivate men to better health, just provide them with a space where they can motivate and support one another and from time-to-time, allow various parties such as Diabetes Ireland and the local Sports Partnerships to share knowledge with them and keep them on track.

L-R: Barry Sheridan, CEO Men’s Sheds; George Kelly, Chairman of the Board of IMSA; Minister Finian McGrath, Minister of State for Disabilities; Fergal Fox, HSE Leinster.

In time, we expect that there will be a shed in every village, town and city in Ireland and Minister McGrath can see that value of these sheds in providing an end-point where the Government can deliver the National Plan for Men’s Health. Irish men will no longer feel isolated and as shedder T.P O’Gorman passionately shared from the podium at City Hall this week, “Irish men will know that Somebody Cares and that We Matter”

Check out the new website at    #maleheathie