Patient voice steals the show and scoops top award

May 20, 2019

‘The Misunderstood’, a service-user led documentary, stole the show at this year’s MSD’s Crystal Clear Health Literacy Awards.  The documentary, led by Caroline Brennan and her team at GiantLeap Productions focused on the experiences of people diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The documentary, which took two years to complete, was made by a group of volunteers who themselves experience learning difficulties. Aired on Dublin City FM, this project was the first time many of those involved had done any media production work.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in Dublin, Ms Brennan said: “We are so proud to have won…the documentary was a real labour of love for us all. We feel passionately about an integrated approach to our work. For the past few years we have worked together with everyone learning on-site and actively playing a role in media production.”

“The judges were really impressed by the novel approach all of those shortlisted projects took to incorporate health literacy into their daily work. Even the smallest changes can make the biggest difference and we hope that this good work will continue to develop amongst all those working and communicating in the healthcare sector” said Dr Laura Sahm, Chair of the judging panel.

Four other projects were recognised for their efforts to communicate health information more clearly to the public. Winning projects included: BUGRUN an e-resource developed to raise awareness about the risks of over-using antibiotics. Through the engaging format of a game, key facts on antibiotic resistance are communicated and enable both children and their parents make an informed choice on the use of antibiotics.

SteppingUP – a support for children with long-term illnesses won in the category of Best Project in a Hospital while Best Project in a Community or Social Setting went to PUMP4Kids – resources for children to support them managing diabetes.

The National Cancer Screening Service was also awarded for their work on “BowelScreen” – instructions to support people using an at-home kit to screen for bowel-cancer.

The top five projects were selected from over 130 entries which had to demonstrate how they addressed the issue of health literacy in a practical and patient-friendly way. In today’s health context, where patients are being encouraged to make more informed decisions and maintain wellness, health literacy (that is, a person’s ability to understand and use basic health information) is increasingly important.

Ms Ciara O’Rourke, Director, MSD and Awards Judge “I would like to congratulate this year’s winners and finalists on their excellent projects.  By entering the Awards they are not only being recognised for their efforts in communicating clearly to patients but also giving others in the health service the opportunity to learn from what they have done.   All the winning projects truly are examples of best practice and have proven that they have made a difference for their patients and those they hoped to reach.”

Ms Inez Bailey, Director, NALA “One in six Irish adults has difficulty fully understanding information presented to them in health care settings. This can be anything from understanding guidelines on medication packs and bottles, to appointment slips and medical education materials. Year on year the awards highlight the amazing work that is being done across the country to improve communication to the customer. We are delighted to be part of these awards over the past seven years, and would like congratulate healthcare professionals for making a real difference.”

The Awards represent an ongoing partnership between MSD and the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) and this year received endorsement from the Healthy Ireland initiative, with the Irish Medical Times as a media partner.

For further information on the Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Awards, log onto


For media contact:


Caroline Collins, The Reputations Agency

086 791 1931

Ann O’Leary, The Reputations Agency

01 661 8915/087 900 2679


Notes to the editor


About Asperger’s Syndrome (AS)

AS is a complex brain disorder and is seen as part of the Autistic Spectrum. Generally those affected by the condition have an IQ within the normal range but may have extremely poor social and communication skills. Common characteristics can be a lack of empathy, little ability to form relationships, one-sided conversations and an intense absorption with a special interest. Sometimes movements can be clumsy. However, with the proper support people with AS can lead full and productive lives.

For more information see:



MSD in Ireland

MSD is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. MSD is known as Merck in the United States and Canada and MSD elsewhere. MSD employs over 2,000 people directly in Ireland and provides an additional 9,000 indirect jobs through its operations at sites throughout Ireland. In the last five decades the company has invested over €2.2bn in Ireland. MSD is one of Ireland’s leading exporters and contributes significantly towards making the pharmaceutical industry the country’s leading export sector. MSD is a member of Guaranteed Irish and manufacturers or packages many of its leading products for the world market in Ireland.

Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit


National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)

The National Adult Literacy Agency is an independent membership organisation, concerned with developing policy, advocacy, research and offering advisory services in adult literacy work in Ireland. NALA was established in 1980 and has campaigned since then for the recognition of, and responses to, the adult literacy issue in Ireland. According to the last international survey, one in six Irish adults has difficulties reading and writing.

For example, they may not be able to understand health information or fill out forms. With this in mind, a lot of NALA’s work involves developing policies and practices that reduce literacy-related barriers to accessing information – specifically in public services and the health sector. NALA is currently chairing the Health Literacy Advisory Panel involving policy makers, advocacies bodies and health service providers. In addition NALA is working with a number of government departments in training staff in literacy awareness and producing publications in plain English. As its focus is on everyday language, plain English is a style of presenting information that helps someone understands it the first time they read or hear it.


Healthy Ireland

Healthy Ireland is a new national framework for action to improve the health and wellbeing of our country over the coming generation. Based on international evidence, it outlines a new commitment to public health with a considerable emphasis on prevention, while at the same time advocating for stronger health systems.

It provides for new arrangements to ensure effective co-operation between the health sector and other areas of Government and public services, concerned with social protection, children, business, food safety, education, housing, transport and the environment. It also invites the private and voluntary sector to participate through well-supported and mutually beneficial partnerships. It sets out four central goals and outlines actions under 6 thematic areas, in which all people and all parts of society can participate to achieve goals.

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