“AmicoAndrologo” – a national campaign for prevention in andrology
‘Sapienza’ University of Rome
Prof. Andrea Lenzi, Full Professor
Prof. Andrea Isidori, MD, PhD
Dr. Daniele Gianfrilli, MD
Department of Experimental Medicine
University of Rome “Sapienza”
Viale Regina Elena 324
In recent years, sexual and reproductive health has emerged as a key concept unifying a variety of clinical and public health issues ranging from unintended teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections to the progressive trend of reduced semen quality and the ever more frequent recourse to assisted reproduction. The development of effective national health programmes for the sexual and reproductive health of young men requires detailed knowledge of their health status and dedicated communication strategies. However, since the abolishment of military service and its related medical examination, andrological screening is no longer conducted on a large scale. The lack of this information is a major barrier to improving the identification and treatment of infertility and efforts to prevent it in future generations.
To address this problem, Sapienza University of Rome has developed AmicoAndrologo: a permanent national campaign designed and conducted in collaboration with the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine (SIAMS) and the Ministry of Health (Centre of Disease Control and Prevention). This campaign started in 2009 and is aimed at all male students aged 18 and over in their final year of secondary education. Its principal aim is to increase awareness and provide knowledge about male reproductive health in order to prevent reproductive disorders.
The project is designed to attract the attention of young adults. Risk factors established during adolescence – a vulnerable time for the development and maturation of the genitourinary tract - are frequently carried forward into adulthood, affecting several health outcomes. The idea was also to exploit teenagers’ interest in sexuality to convey important messages about reproduction, by linking genitourinary health to general wellbeing.
The specific goals are:
• Raise awareness and educate boys, schools, families and the general public on the most frequent andrological disorders affecting childhood and adolescence and the prevention of reproductive disorders.
• Inform adolescents about the impact of risk behaviours on male reproductive and sexual function, promoting healthy lifestyles through innovative communication tools aimed at young adults.
• Acquire reproductive health data on young men and survey risk behaviours in order to establish primary and secondary prevention strategies for sexual and reproductive health.
• Aid early identification of genitourinary disorders.
The "AmicoAndrologo" target population is 18-year old men, as many studies demonstrate that various andrological disorders acquired during adolescence, partly due to acquired habits and risk behaviours, can still be reversed at this age.
In order to capture the interest of this diverse and complex group a team was formed including not only andrologists and sexologists but also communication experts, webmasters, video producers and graphic designers, to create a visual identity using the language of the youths themselves to deliver the campaign’s message.
Its implementation was based on the following strategies:
• Design of a logo and character that were new, friendly, easily recognisable and associated with a positive feeling.
• Distribution of printed material (brochures and posters enclosed) and production of short movies and cartoons (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5wUmJT0YQI&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5wUmJT0YQI&feature=related) addressing the most relevant themes of prevention in andrology.
• Launch of an interactive website (www.amicoandrologo.it). The website hosts a collection of articles with insights and news on andrological health. It also offers the opportunity to ask for expert medical advice in complete anonymity or request a free consultation at the nearest medical centre certified by the Society of Andrology and Medical Sexology.
• Organisation of events in 127 schools, reaching over 10,000 students directly. In addition, a one-day event was held in the University’s Auditorium in collaboration with the Fondazione Veronesi (http://www.ing.uniroma1.it/index2.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gi... ), which saw the active participation of 500 university students.
• Design of an anonymous 60-item questionnaire for completion by students after the school events, in order to profile the lifestyles and health status of male adolescents.
• Annual press conferences organised by the University and the Ministry of Health to present the campaign’s results.
The campaign was conducted in nine Italian regions (Lazio, Veneto, Campania, Tuscany, Marche, Puglia, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Calabria) using the same materials and methodology, thereby creating a network involving school boards, health authorities and referrals to specialists in andrology and reproduction.
The campaign has had an vast impact in communicating the importance of reproductive health, and 10,124 questionnaires were completed – 4.6% of the 217,581 18-yr old males in their final year of secondary education (source: ISTAT) and over 99.5% of those attending the events. An andrological medical examination on school premises was requested by 3896 students, revealing various disorders potentially affecting fertility in 1/3 of cases.
The campaign website went online in 2009, providing expert information on various andrological issues and helping visitors locate their nearest andrological centre for a consultation, and has received over 60,000 hits.
The campaign has been covered by the mass media and the web. It has been described in the following newspaper articles:
AmicoAndrologo is a one-of-a-kind communication campaign involving direct face-to-face events, distribution of printed materials and production of a cartoon and an interactive website. It also stands out for its target population, 18-year old students, which necessitated the development of dedicated communication skills and language. AmicoAndrologo was designed to convey a serious message with a positive value while avoiding alienating its target through over-medicalisation.
The use of appealing graphics and cartoons enabled the use of the materials in different sociocultural contexts across the country and the campaign’s renewal in subsequent years (latest edition 2011-2012) without the materials becoming old-fashioned or obsolete. The project’s structure and self-explanatory content, also make it applicable and transferable to different environments, for future use by non-specialists in various settings.