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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.