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Launching of Movember and prostate cancer awareness month at the beginning of this month, the Irish Cancer Society has given its top tips to help organisations effectively communicate health information to men.

Approximately four in every ten men have low health literacy, resulting in difficulties for them in terms of finding, understanding and using health information.

The overall impact of low literacy in men is poorer health outcomes and a lower cancer survival rate.

The society has created a tool with a number of recommendations that for developing health information.

This was established following the results of a research study conducted by the Society in partnership with UCC and the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA). Some of the suggestions include easy to read language that avoids medical jargon, the incorporation of humour, and the use of infographics and images where possible, rather than text.

Commenting on the project, Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager with the Irish Cancer Society outlined what health literacy entails: “Health literacy is the ability to find, use and understand health information and it is absolutely vital to good health. We know that four in every ten men have low health literacy levels and that has very serious implications for their health.

“Being able to get, understand and use health information can have huge implications on men’s health, such as knowing about certain health risks, the importance of making healthy choices, disease prevention, safety in the workplace, going for screening, getting early treatment or taking medicine correctly”.

He outlined that it is particularly crucial to be health literate when delaing with cancer because having access to information about the signs and symptoms, in addition to understanding the need to get checked as early as possible or knowing about the importance of cancer screening, can directly impact on cancer survival rates.

Helen Ryan, Policy Officer with NALA, added: “It’s important that we better understand why men are not accessing health information and what changes we can make to ensure that more men do engage.

“That’s why these tips are so important and I would encourage all health organisations to incorporate them into their own communications. If everyone in the sector makes a few simple changes, we could see a real difference in how men access and benefit from healthcare information.’’

The Irish Cancer Society is currently promoting Movember, as part of prostate cancer awareness month, as roughly 3,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, meaning one in seven men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime.