This year was my tenth year celebrating and promoting Men's Health Week, writes Glen Poole, CEO of the Australian Men's Health Forum.
I first got involved in 2010 when a local men's charity I founded took on the challenge of getting a whole city (Brighton & Hove in England) to celebrate the week.
We persuaded dozens of local organisations to mark the week with the rallying cry "Get A Move On" which promoted the individual health benefits of physical activity. The slogan was also a reminder that at a collective level we needed to "get a move on" and take more action to improve men and boys' health.
We launched the week with a gathering of 50 men representing different sporting codes, public sector bodies and businesses doing yoga together in their work clothes overlooking the English Channel on Hove Lawns.
My lasting memory of the week was that we turned Doug Devaney, an unhealthy mate who'd had a heart attack in his forties, into our men's health ambassador. He shared his experience in a one man show - The Angina Monologue - in which he recounted my invitation to support Men's Health Week.
Apparently he protested that having had a heart attack and being visibly overweight he was hardly the perfect ambassador for men’s health. I allegedly replied: “I know Doug, but you’ve got a story to tell…………..and you’re cheap”.
I've marked Men's Health Week every year since 2010, but until this month, my first Men's Health Week has always been my personal favourite.
That all changed last week when thanks to my work here at the Australian Men's Health Forum, I had the opportunity to visit 7 cities in 5 days as we announced the winners of the 2019 Men's Health Awards in every state and territory except the NT, where where we'll be announcing the winner in July.
The awards coincided with the publication of a series of Men's Health Report Cards outlining the state of men's health in every State and Territory.
More importantly, they created a great opportunity for our members, supporters and friends to come together and connect with likeminded people who share our commitment to improving the lives and health of men and boys.
On a personal level, it was profoundly uplifting to connect with so many great men and women who are taking action to create a healthier future for men in Australia.
On my travels I was reminded that 2010 was also the year that I first "came" to Australia via a radio interview with Sydney-based Dads On The Air, to talk about my work in the UK. It was seeing Bill Kable from Dads On The Air at this year's NSW Awards that reminded me of this fact.
The Men's Health Movement
In the intervening years I have been privileged to become part of an the extensive network of friends, colleagues and organisations that we call the men's health sector.
At a systemic level, AMHF is the glue that works to stick the different parts of our diverse sector together, but the men's health sector is much bigger than any one organisation or individual. It is an awesome mix of ideas and relationships and experiences and knowledge and programs and practices and expertise.
The men's health sector that I know and love, has never been about telling men to drink less beer and eat more vegetables (even though that's good advice), it's about transforming the way we think about and relate to the men and boys in our life.
Some of the things that keep men healthy are much more fundamental than the things we eat and drink, they are the building blocks of life, such as having close relationships, doing meaningful work and finding a purpose in life.
Nothing is more important to me personally than the two key women in my life - my partner Jakkie and my daughter Josie - and our extended families that love and support us.
Leading The Men's Health Sector
My second family is the "men's movement" in Australia, the UK and beyond. I am blessed and privileged to do meaningful work that fills my life with purpose and places me at the heart of a sector where you are more likely to be greeted with an open-hearted man hug than a formal handshake.
We are also a sector, I believe, that continues to lead the world in the way we respond to the challenge of improving the lives and health of men and boys.
For me, having the opportunity to connect with some of the key people in our sector all over Australia in one week, made 2019 the best Men's Health Week ever.
I want to acknowledge, therefore, the pioneers who started Men's Health Week back the in 1990s and in particular our colleagues at the Men's Health Information and Resource Centre (MHIRC) who have been the leading custodians of Men's Health Week in Australia for nearly 20 years.
It's impossible to measure all of the great things that happen as a result of initiatives like Men's Health Week but it creates an annual platform for the men's health sector to work together, to grow our movement, to connect with men and boys and advance our important work to create a healthier future for everyone.
TAKE ACTION FOR MEN'S HEALTH
- DONATE: Help us create a healthier future for men and boys
- JOIN: 5 reasons to become an AMHF member today