Men’s Pie Club!

Good food, good mates, good fun

Pies and policy

Yesterday, WHO launched a strategy on the health and wellbeing of men in the WHO European Region, committing to improving health and wellbeing for all men, reducing inequalities and improving gender equality. The strategy and its recommendations are supported by a review of existing evidence. It covers key issues of the health and wellbeing of men from a gender and social determinants of health perspective and includes the responses of health systems and policy approaches.

This is great news for men and really worth a read (see button at bottom of page). The areas covered include:

  • Strengthening governance for the health and wellbeing of men, building on the gains achieved by addressing gender and social determinants of health, to obtain greater health equality
  • Making gender equality a priority for men’s health: supporting the role of men in achieving gender equality, challenging gender imbalances in paid and unpaid care, engaging men and boys in violence prevention and sharing responsibility for reproductive health
  • Making health systems gender-responsive: understanding men’s health needs and patterns of health-seeking behaviour, addressing men’s health challenges, improving health services delivery and reaching out to men
  • Improving health promotion: focusing on key life transitions, building on men's assets and positive images, focusing on the main risks and using settings and places to draw interest
  • Building on a strong evidence base that includes an evaluation of policies and actions.

Part of this looks at supporting age-friendly environments and spaces at a local level. Environments and spaces that promote wellbeing and reduce the increased risk of loneliness and social isolation that men, from various socioeconomic groups and at various ages, may experience.

And that's where the pies come in.

Funded by the Movember Foundation’s Social Innovation Challenge to tackle loneliness in men, Men's Pie Club is delivered through a partnership of the social enterprise Food Nation and the Men's Health Forum.

The pilot project is running for two years with the first Men's Pie Clubs in Newcastle as a pilot. It’s hoped to open more Men's Pie Clubs across the country in due course, with men meeting, cooking, eating and learning.

What are the rules?

The rule of Men’s Pie Club is simple: do talk about Men’s Pie Club!

The goal of Men’s Pie Club is to be a place of leisure where men can come together to informally learn about food, share skills and knowledge, achieve and socially interact and hopefully reduce loneliness in men. Men’s Pie Club makes use of these principles as well as many others:

  • Bringing people together around a shared activity - making pies in this case - has been shown to be effective in engaging men possibly because it reduces the stigma for why the group is coming together
  • Men prefer to be able to give skills while also taking advice - this is made more possible when coming together around a shared activity
  • It uses the principle of co-design, i.e. one that men felt could work, (hence the engagement of groups of men for their thoughts, opinions and insights into what could work and what could support it to work as well as it could)
  • Respecting men’s communication methods and using common words and phrases rather than medical terms associated with mental health
  • Highlighting successes, whatever size, through social networks to encourage the group to be proud of what they are doing and to encourage other men to think about their own situations and consider joining in.

How does loneliness affect men (and people in general)?

According to the Royal Voluntary Service, an estimated eight million (35%) men feel lonely at least once a week, whilst for nearly three million (11%) it’s a daily occurrence.

  • Recent research showed that loneliness is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Other research found the influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity
  • Another study found a correlation between self-reported loneliness heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and an elevated risk of attempted suicide
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