June is Men’s Health Month. It’s dedicated to inspiring men’s health and well-being through national screenings and educational campaigns. This is a great time to raise awareness by communicating to men about preventable health problems, early detection and treatments for disease.
Since communication is such a key part of this effort, it begs the question: Are there certain things to keep in mind when writing about healthcare for men? The answer: yes and no. It’s critical to produce well-written health materials in an inclusive style that both genders can relate to and understand. Health literacy is for everyone.
But there’s evidence to support the idea that a few tweaks can make writing healthcare content for men more effective.
Health literacy and healthcare content for men
A years-long study focused on a group of adults who graduated from college in the late 1950s. It examined life-course factors that were associated with poor health literacy around 70 years old. Women performed better than men on the health-literacy task, which rated how well each gender comprehended health information.
Fifty percent of the men had poor health literacy, compared with 40% of women. Of course, there were various factors that informed this finding. Still, it seems to reinforce the idea that health literacy plays at least a small part in communicating with the genders.
Here are a few tips to think about when writing healthcare content geared toward men.
Consider framing health in terms of numbers. For instance, make suggestions around keeping track of weight, blood pressure, blood glucose and other numeric goals.
To help give men a useful mental picture of a topic, it may help to use metaphors. For instance, compare the human body to a machine with interconnected parts. This may sound trite in this enlightened age of gender neutrality. But if it works to compare the kidneys to a car’s oil filters — since they both filter out impurities in fluids — then go for it.
Keep perspectives in mind
No matter what — clear, straightforward writing is the main goal. But don’t decide that men and women want to learn all information the same way. You may need to balance one kind of approach for men with another for women. It’s good to be aware of differences so you can meet the communication needs of both genders.
Watch your pronouns
“His/her” is a pronoun mashup that’s pretty common when a writer tries to be inclusive. The problem is that the format can be hard to read and understand, especially when readers have limited literacy skills. Instead of “his/her,” try to use gender-specific names when possible or the increasingly acceptable “their.”
Most of the time when it comes to clear language and health literacy, one size fits both genders. But it never hurts to be sensitive to how men learn and respond to information about their health and well-being. That’s something that goes beyond June and into every single day.
Experts in plain language
The WriterGirl team understands the language of healthcare and and knows how to translate it into content that speaks to your specific audience, so you can be a powerful resource for your patients. Drop us a line if you want to learn more.