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Published: 02 February 2023

Addressing language and cultural barriers by providing new screening information to Ireland’s diverse communities

By Graham Clifford, co-founder and CEO of Translate Ireland

Communication is personal – it will only work if it reaches you, if you can relate to the style of information delivery, and if you feel that it is created with you in mind.

In 2021, when the National Screening Service (NSS) approached Translate Ireland to help develop multilingual videos for women in Ireland, we were delighted to play our role. The 2016 census found that almost 90,000 people in Ireland describe their standard of English as poor or having ‘none at all’. It is therefore essential that health information is adapted to ensure it reaches all those in our society it is intended for.

Initially we worked with the NSS on video messages to explain the CervicalCheck cervical screening process to women for whom English is not their first language. After the success of these videos, we again partnered with the NSS to develop videos on Diabetic RetinaScreen – the national diabetic retinal screening programme and BreastCheck – the national breast screening programme. We are currently finalising video messages for BowelScreen – the national bowel screening programme.

Translate Ireland works with native speakers to present its video messaging. Most are born in other countries before moving to Ireland, and the majority of presenters work in the Irish healthcare system – doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, for example. We have worked to build a panel of presenters across over 40 languages and when working with the NSS, we made sure to match up the most appropriate presenter with the individual message.

When developing and translating scripts for presenters, we receive advice from linguists and also seek support from Dublin City University translations to ensure the content is culturally sensitive and appropriate to the target audience. We revise content to minimise use of acronyms, titles or words that can have multiple meanings, and we ensure that health messaging is not overly clinical or wordy.

It’s vital too that we are aware there are cultural and religious considerations to point out when developing healthcare messages. These may be overlooked when creating a script solely for an Irish audience. For example, we made sure to point out that should a person require a female doctor or nurse for the cervical screening process this can easily be facilitated.

When creating video content, presenters mainly use their smartphones. We share tips on how to present and record messages in the highest quality. We advise on the background, the time of day to record, how to set up the phone and how to maximise light. We remind presenters to minimise any potential disruptions or background disturbances. We also advise on the tone to take in the messaging, and how to look - seeing a smile and feeling a warm connection with the presenter can be so important to the person watching the video.

At Translate Ireland, we believe this type of respectful, culturally appropriate and personal information sharing is vital – not just for the women involved but for the Irish healthcare system as a whole. Our community is diverse. Our health service and its means of communications needs to reflect that. We are grateful to the National Screening Service for their vision and ingenuity on this project.

The multilingual videos can be viewed here: CervicalCheckBreastCheckDiabetic RetinaScreen; BowelScreen