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The use of gender neutral language in the CervicalCheck public information and education resources

CervicalCheck is a population screening programme, which means it has the opportunity to improve the health of the eligible population. We aim to make the programme accessible and inclusive of everyone in the population and reduce health inequalities wherever possible. Measures needed to reduce health inequalities include, but are not exclusive to, Health Promotion activities in key populations where uptake is low; having communications materials translated into languages other than English; and using inclusive and accessible language in our communications materials.

Revision of language in web content, invitation letters, results letters and information leaflets in National Screening Service programmes is carried out regularly for each programme. We revised our CervicalCheck information in preparation for the move to HPV cervical screening in March 2020.

Key references that informed the use of gender neutral language:

  • Health 2020; Reducing health inequities: perspectives for policy-makers and planners, by Tammy Boyce and Chris Brown. World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, 2017. This policy was also referenced Dr Gabriel Scally's Scoping Inquiry into CervicalCheck 2018.
  • 2017 Government's Healthy Ireland Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025, a key goal of which is the reduction of health inequalities. 

The National Screening Service also adheres to HSE communications guidelines when developing web content. The HSE's 'How to write about people' guidelines are available here and advise to 'use gender-neutral text wherever possible'.

A recent example of language revision of HSE content occurred during the campaign, where parent focus groups and market research supported the use of 'your child' and 'they' rather 'he' or 'she' in communications concerning children.

Our CervicalCheck material has been created in consultation with patient representatives and stakeholders of screening. It has been user-tested with a sample of the target audience and the National Screening Service Public Participation Panel, and approved by CervicalCheck’s Programme Manager, Clinical Director, Clinical Advisory Group, and the HPV Primary Screening Steering Committee.

We continue to work to implement improvements that help to reduce health inequalities for everyone.


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