By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition
Making decisions for our health can feel like putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle – time-consuming or perhaps frustrating – and that’s if you have all the pieces.
When it comes to health decisions, we first have to find trustworthy resources, then we need to be able to interpret and apply that information to make what is hopefully the best decision. This process is called Health Literacy, and it is of national concern. How big of a concern? 9 out of 10 people, to no fault of our own, do not have the skills needed to find or interpret health information.
What is being done about this?
The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy recognizes it will take a mass effort of organizations, professionals, policymakers, communities, and individuals to change how our nation communicates health information. The plan highlights 7 goals and accompanying strategies.
Additionally, since 2010, federal law requires federal agencies to provide training for staff and use plain language when communicating with the public. Plain language means the audience is able to understand something the first time they read or hear it.
Click here for a before-and-after comparison. Which version do you think is easier to understand?
What can you do?
- Find training in health literacy, plain language, and culture and communication
- Work with people who specialize in communicating with plain language
- Make use of existing tools to evaluate and/or plan materials
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a Clear Communication Index that is a short, evidence-based form to use when developing or evaluating a communication product. I look forward to giving this a try
Let’s help our fellow citizens put all the pieces of their health puzzle together.
References and Resources:
Boston University. Health Literacy Tool Shed. http://healthliteracy.bu.edu/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC Clear Communication Index. http://www.cdc.gov/ccindex/index.html
Center for Plain Language. http://centerforplainlanguage.org/
National Network of Libraries of Medicine. Health Literacy. https://nnlm.gov/outreach/consumer/hlthlit.html
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. https://health.gov/communication/initiatives/health-literacy-action-plan.asp