Letterkenny native, Alastair McKinney who works in Dementia Aware Donegal (DAD) has been given national recognition for his outstanding efforts to communicate with patients in a crystal clear way. Alastair and his team from Dementia Aware Donegal have been shortlisted for their initiative “Dear Grandma” in the sixth annual Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Awards in the Category, Best Health Promotion Project. As a result of being shortlisted, Alastair and his team will be invited to attend the Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Awards Ceremony in Dublin on Monday, 13th May 2013.
Dementia Aware Donegal (DAD) aims to help younger citizens understand Alzheimer’s and its effect on those who live with the illness and those who care for them. Dementia Aware Donegal, a consortium led by the HSE’s Services for Older People in Donegal and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (Donegal Branch), also includes local government and organisations from the development, voluntary, education and media sectors. The consortium developed the ‘Dear Grandma’ awareness campaign and a competition to educate younger generations of the community so that they will be better prepared to not only face a future diagnosis, or role as a family carer, but to help look after their grandparent now or help their grandparents, relatives or siblings to look after their parents.
A Dear Grandma storybook was developed and provided to 175 primary / national schools in County Donegal with a lesson plan to teach 10 to 12 year old pupils about Alzheimer’s.
The book explained, from the viewpoint of a child of national school age and his younger sister, what it was like helping his grandfather and parents to care for his grandmother who is living with Alzheimer’s. With the support of a sponsor and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland’s contacts, the text of the book was published as a supplement in local newspapers (Donegal Democrat/Donegal People’s Press and Derry Journal), putting over 16,000 copies of the story in circulation. Classroom materials and a Creative Writing Competition, run through a local paper, encouraged pupils to discuss Alzheimer’s amongst themselves and with families and friends.
The creative writing competition was used to assess if the message had been understood. Over forty entries from sixteen schools in the form of poems, short stories and letters evidenced the reach and engagement and the publicity associated with the competition has introduced significant change in public perception of the illness in Donegal.
Almost 130 entries were received this year across the healthcare sector including; GPs, nurses, practice managers, physiotherapists, and hospital catering managers. The entry level to the Crystal Clear Awards has remained very high over the last 6 years and highlights the strong level of interest in health literacy in the healthcare environment in Ireland. Health literacy involves a person being able to understand basic health information whether they receive it in writing, in person or over the phone. It also involves a person having the knowledge to understand their options and make informed decisions about their own health.
Ms Ciara O’Rourke, Director, Access, Policy & Communications, MSD, and judge of the awards commented, “This is the sixth year of the Crystal Clear awards and the shortlisted entries highlight the remarkable work being done all across the healthcare sector to better inform people about their health. The recent EU Health Literacy survey proves that the more people understand their health, the better their health will be.¹
All the judges are pleased to see the continued commitment in the healthcare sector to health literacy and would like to extend our congratulations to all those shortlisted.”
Also speaking at the announcement of the shortlist was Inez Bailey, Director of the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), who said, “With almost 130 entries into the Crystal Clear Awards again this year, it is clear that a lot is being done on the topic of health literacy. It shows that healthcare professionals are making great efforts to communicate in a clear, easy-to-understand way, using innovative approaches and rephrasing any specialised terms in plain English. We would like to commend all those who have taken the time to enter the awards. We would also like to offer our congratulations to all those shortlisted projects and have no doubt that they will inspire others working in this area.”
The Awards are a partnership between MSD and NALA with representation on the judging panel from the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), Irish Practice Nurse Association (IPNA), UCD, a General Practice and NALA. The media partner to the awards is The Irish Medical Times.
For further information on the Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Awards, log onto www.healthliteracy.ie.