It’s Not Rocket Science: The Case from Ireland for a Policy Focus on Men’s Health

Main Article Content

Noel Richardson
Paula Carroll


gender-focused health policy initiatives, gender-mainstreaming, gender inequity


Historically, men, as a population group, have been conspicuous by their absence at a global and national health policy level. Moreover, most gender-focused health policy initiatives and gender-mainstreaming approaches to health have tended to be synonymous with women’s health. This places Ireland’s National Men’s Health Policy (NMHP) and recent external 5-year review in the collector’s item category within the wider health policy landscape.


This paper will review the impetus and background to men’s health policy development in Ireland against a backdrop of the invisibility of men more generally from health policy. Reflecting on the key milestones and challenges associated with transitioning from policy development to implementation, the paper will seek to inform a wider public health debate on the case for targeting men as a specific population group for the strategic planning of health. The case for a NMHP on the grounds of a gender inequity will also be explored in the context of contributing more broadly to gender equality. There will be a particular focus on exploring how strategies associated with governance and accountability, advocacy, research and evaluation, partnerships and capacity-building, have acted as a catalyst and framework for action in the rollout of a broad range of men’s health initiatives. With the central challenge being the translation of cross-departmental and inter-sectoral recommendations into sustainable actions, the role of NMHP in applying a gender lens to other policy areas will also be discussed.


Ireland’s NMHP has raised the visibility of men’s health in Ireland; the lessons learned during its implementation provide a strong rationale and blueprint for NMHP development elsewhere.

Abstract 82 | pdf Downloads 67


1. Sabo DF and Gordon DF. Men’s Health and Illness. Gender, Power, and the Body. Volume 8. Sage Publications; 1995.
2. White A, McKee M, Richardson N, et al. Europe’s men need their own health strategy. BMJ 2011;343:d7397–11.
3. Richardson N. Getting Inside Men’s Health, Health Promotion Unit, Department of Health and Children; 2004. Available at:
4. Richardson N and Smith J. National men's health policies in Ireland and Australia: what are the challenges associated with transitioning from development to implementation. Public Health 2011;125(7):424–32.
5. Richardson N and Carroll P. National Men’s Health Policy. Department of Health and Children. 2008-2013; Dublin; 2009.
6. Richardson N. and Carroll P. Health Service Executive. Healthy Ireland Men 2017-2021. National Men’s Health Action Plan; 2016.

7. Richardson N and Osborne, A. Staying fit for farming’. A health booklet for farmers. J Agromedicine 2015;20(3):381–5. doi: 10.1080/1059924X.2015.1047551.

8. Department of Health. Healthy Ireland: A framework for improved health and wellbeing 2013-25. Department of Health, Dublin; 2013.
9. Baker P. Review of National Men’s Health Policy and Action Plan 2008-13: Final report for the Health Service Executive; 2015. Available at:
10. Baker, P. National men’s health policies: can they help? Trends in Urology. November/December: 24-26; 2015. Available at:
11. Richardson N and Carroll P. Getting men’s health onto a policy agenda – charting the development of a national men’s health policy in Ireland. J Men’s Health 2009;6(2):105–13.
12. Smith J, White A, Richardson N, and Robertson S. The men's health policy contexts in Australia, the UK & Ireland: Advancement or abandonment? Critical Public Health 2009;9(3-4): 427–40.
13. Richardson N. Building momentum, gaining traction: Ireland’s national men's health policy- 5 years on. New Male Studies 2013;2(3):93–103.
14. University College Dublin. All Ireland Traveller Health Study. School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, University College Dublin; 2010.
15. Balanda KP and Wilde J. Inequalities in mortality – A report on All-Ireland mortality data. The Institute of Public Health in Ireland. Dublin; 2001.
16. GLEN. LGBT Self-Harm & Suicidality: An Overview of National & International Research Findings; 2015; Available at:
17. Smyth B, Evans DS, Kelly A, et al. The farming population in Ireland: mortality trends during the 'Celtic Tiger' years. Eur J Public Health 2013 Feb;23(1):50–5.
18. Van Doorn D, Richardson N, and Osborne A. Farmers Have Hearts Evaluation: A report commissioned by the Irish Heart Foundation. Institute of Technology Carlow; 2015.
19. Layte R, Banks J, WalshC, and McKnight G. Trends in socio-economic inequalities in mortality by sex in Ireland from the 1980s to the 2000s. Ir J Med Sci 2014.
20. Clarke C, Sharp L, and Richardson N. An examination of the excess burden of cancer in men. Institute of Technology Carlow; 2013.
21. Institute of Public Health in Ireland. Facing the challenge: The impact of recession and unemployment on men’s health in Ireland; 2011. Available at:
22. Corcoran P, Griffin E, Arensman E, et al. Impact of the economic recession and subsequent austerity on suicide and self-harm in Ireland: An interrupted time series analysis. Int J Epidemiol 2015;44(3):969–77.
23. O’Donnell S and Richardson N. Middle-Aged Men and Suicide in Ireland. Dublin: Men’s Health Forum in Ireland; 2018.
24. White A, de Sousa B, De Visser R, et al. The first state of men’s health in Europe report. European Union, Brussels; 2011.
25. Baker P and Shand T. Men’s health: time for a new approach to policy and practice? J Global Health 2017;7(1):010306.
26. Tsuchiya A and Williams, A. A‘fair innings’ between the sexes: are men being treated inequitably? Soc Sci Med 2005;60:277–86.
27. Lohan M. How might we understand men’s health better? Integrating explanations from critical studies on men and inequalities in health. Soc Sci Med 2007;65:493–504.
28. Banks I. ‘Male Minder’. A health booklet for An Post staff. An Post. Dublin; 2009.
29. Williams R, Robertson S, and Hewison A. Men’s health, inequalities and policy: contradictions, masculinities and public health in England. Crit Pub Health 2009;19:475–88.
30. World Health Organization. Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Closing the gap in a generation: health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Final report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Geneva; 2008.
31. Bates L, Hankivsky O, and Springer K. Gender and health inequities: a comment on the final report of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Soc Sci Med 2009;69:1002–4.
32. Smith J, Robertson S, and Richardson N. Understanding gender equity in the context of men’s health policy development. Health Promot J Aust 2010;21(1):76–77.
33. Connell RW. Gender, health and theory: Conceptualizing the issue, in local and world perspective. Soc Sci Med 2012;74(11):1675–83.
34. Hawkes SJ and Buse K. Analysis of gender in health and development. Lancet Child Adolesc Health 2017;1(3):166–67
35. Hawkes SJ and Buse K. Gender blind? An analysis of global public-private partnerships for health. Globalizat Health 2017;13:26
36. Hawkes SJ Buse K. Gender myths in global health. Lancet 2017;5 (Correspondence): 871
37. Global Health 50/50. The Global Health 50/50 Report: How gender-responsive are the world’s most influential global health organizations?’, London, UK; 2018.
38. Tolhurst R, Leach B, Price J, et al. Intersectionality and gender mainstreaming in international health: Using a feminist participatory action research process to analyse voices and debates from the global south and north. Soc Sci Med 2012;74(11):1825–32.
39. Fernández-Sáez J, Ruiz-Cantero MT, Guijarro-Garví M, et al. Looking twice at the gender equity index for public health impact. BMC Pub Health 2013;13:659.
40. Richardson N. ‘The ‘buck’ stops with me’ – reconciling men’s lay conceptualisations of responsibility for health with men’s health policy. Health Soc Rev 2010;20(2):419–36.
41. Health Service Executive. A framework for integrating gender equality in Health Service Executive Policy, Planning and Service Delivery. National Women’s Council of Ireland, Dublin; 2012. Available at:
42. Bull FC, Bellew B, Schöppe S, and Bauman AE. Developments in National Physical Activity Policy: an international review and recommendations towards better practice. J Sci Med Sport 2004;7(1 Suppl):93–104.
43. Stachowiak S, Robles L, Habtemariam E, and Maltry M. Beyond the Win: Pathways for Policy Implementation. ORS Impact and the Atlas Learning Centre; 2016. Available at:
44. Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Implementation of Program and Policy Initiatives: Making implementation matter. Commonwealth Australia, Canberra; 2006.
45. Lefkowich M and Richardson N. Men’s health in alternative spaces: Exploring Men’s Sheds in Ireland. Internat Health Promot 2016;1–11 doi: 10.1093/heapro/daw091
46. Wilson NJ and Cordier R. A narrative review of Men’s Sheds literature: reducing social isolation and promoting men’s health and well-being. Soc Care Commun 2013;21(5):451–63.
47. Heenan D. A partnership approach to health promotion: A case study from Northern Ireland, Health Promot Internat 2004;19(1):105–113.
48. Kirwan L, Lambe B, and Carroll P. An investigation into the partnership process of community based health promotion for men. Internat J Health Promot Educat 2013;51(2):108–20.
49. Robertson S, Witty K, Zwolinsky S,and Day R. Men’s health promotion interventions: What have we learned from previous programs. Commun Practit 2013;86(11):38–41.
50. Coles R, Watkins F, Swami V, et al. What men really want: A qualitative investigation of men’s health needs from Halton and St. Helens primary care trust men’s health promotion project. Br J Health Psychol 2010;15(4):921–39.
51. Carroll P, Kirwan L, and Lambe B. Engaging ‘hard to reach’ men in community based health promotion. Internat J Health Promot and Educat 2014;52(3):120–30.
52. Carroll P. Men’s Health Matters. A Practical Guide to Healthcare for Men; 2013. Available at:
53. Lefkowich M, Richardson N, and Robertson S. (2015a). ”If we want to get men in, then we need to ask men what they want.” Pathways to Effective Health Programming for Men 2015; online pii: 1557988315617825.
54. Lefkowich M, Richardson N, Brennen L, et al. A process evaluation of a Training of Trainers (TOT) model of health training in Ireland. Health Promotion International 2016;doi: 10.1093/heapro/daw056
55. Carroll P, Kirwan L, and Lambe B. Community Based Health Promotion for Men: A Guide for Practitioners. Waterford: Centre for Health Behaviour Research, Waterford Institute of Technology; 2013. Available at:
56. Van Doorn D., Richardson N. and Osborne A. Finding a space for health within the context of ‘occupational risk’ and farm policy: Ireland’s ‘farmers have hearts’ workplace cardiovascular screening program. Occup Environ Med 2017;74:A84–A85.
57. Van Doorn D, Richardson N, and Osborne A. Farmers Have Hearts: the prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease among a sub-group of Irish livestock farmers. J Agromed 2017;22(3):264–74.
58. Richardson N, Clarke C, and Fowler C. Young men and suicide project. A report from the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland; 2013. Available at:
59. Grace B, Richardson N, and Carroll, P. Engaging Young Men Project. A report on the mapping exercise conducted in Ireland in 2014. Dublin: Men’s Health Forum in Ireland; 2015. Available at:
60. Kinsella P. An evaluation of the efficacy and effectiveness of a mental health promotion and suicide prevention program targeted at young males in a disadvantaged community. MSc Thesis. Institute of Technology Carlow, Ireland; 2013.
61. Keohane A. Applying a gender lens to suicide prevention interventions with a focus on men. MSc Thesis. Institute of Technology Carlow, Ireland; 2015.
62 Keohane A and Richardson N. Negotiating gender norms to support men in psychological distress. Am J Men’s Health 2017; DttOpsI://1d0o.i.1o1rg7/71/01.1515779/18585371987873137079330
63. Byrne N. Investigating the impact of a men’s health and wellbeing program targeted at disadvantaged men in dublin’s inner city. (Unpublished Masters in Science Dissertation). Institute of Technology Carlow; 2013.
64. Dunne N, Richardson N, and Clarke N. The Larkin Centre: Men’s Health and Wellbeing Program Evaluation Report. Centre for Men’s Health, IT Carlow; 2010.
65. McCarthy M and Richardson N. Best practice approaches to tailoring lifestyle interventions for obese men in the primary care setting: A resource Booklet for Health Care Professionals working with obese men in the Primary Care Setting. Centre for Men’s Health, IT Carlow; 2011.
66. Lefkowich M, Richardson N, and Robertson S. Engaging men as partners and participants: guiding principles, strategies, and perspectives for community initiatives and holistic partnerships. Institute of Technology Carlow; 2015.
67. Richardson N, Brennan L, Lambe B, and Carroll P. ‘Engage’: National Men’s Health Training Program & Resource Pack. Men’s Health Forum in Ireland; 2013.
68. Fowler C, Richardson N, Carroll P, et al. ‘Connecting with Young Men’: Engaging Young Men National Training Program & Resource Pack. Men’s Health Forum in Ireland; 2015.
69. Men’s Development Network. 7 Questions Training. Men’s Development Network, Waterford, Ireland; 2013.
70. Boydell L, Rugkasa J, Hoggett P, and Cummins A. Partnerships: The Benefits. Dublin: Institute of Public Health in Ireland; 2007.
71. Rees J, Mullins DB, Ovaird R. Partnership Working. Research Report (88). Third Sector Research Centre; 2012. Available at:
72. Osborne A, Carroll P, Richardson N, Doheny M, et al. From training to practice: the impact of ENGAGE, Ireland’s national men’s health training program. International Health Promotion; 2016. doi: 10.1093/heapro/daw100.

73. Department of Health and Children (2010). Changing Cardiovascular Health: National Cardiovascular Health Policy 2010-2019. Department of Health, Dublin

74. Department of Health. (2015a). National Cancer Strategy 2006: A Strategy for Cancer Control in Ireland (Evaluation Panel Report 30th Dec 2014). Department of Health, Dublin
75. Department of Health. (2016). Get Ireland Active: National Physical Activity Plan for Ireland. Department of Health, Dublin.
76. Department of Health. (2015b). Connecting for Life: Ireland’s national strategy to reduce suicide 2015-20. Department of Health, Dublin.

77. Rogers, E.M. (eds). (2003). Diffusion of Innovations. 5th Edition. New York: Free Press.

78. Grace B., Carroll P. & Richardson N. (2016). ‘Connecting with Young Men’ Engage Unit 6 - National Men’s Health Training Program: An Evaluation REPORT NO. 2: Engaging Young Men Project. The Men’s Health Forum in Ireland

79. World Health Organization. (2009). How can gender equity be addressed through health systems? Payne S: Policy brief 12.