Health Literacy Consulting How-To Tip
You care about clearly communicating health information. You also face many competing, yet worthy, demands on your time and for your attention. This month’s How-To Tip highlights 5 effective and efficient strategies you can use to help patients and the public better understand about health.
- Know your audience, This means knowing in general about issues related to literacy, language, culture, and age. It also means being sensitive to any disabilities or emotional considerations that may affect health understanding.
- Create a welcoming and supportive environment. Whether you are communicating in person, in print, over the phone, or online, do so in ways that encourage thought and reasoned action. This includes setting a tone in which people can comfortably ask questions, disagree, and let you know when they don’t understand.
- Communicate in whatever ways work. People learn and communicate in a variety of ways. Beyond speaking and writing, consider strategies like sharing stories, using metaphors, or teaching with lots of pictures. Incorporate the principles of plain language in all your communication. This means using words that people already know, clearly explaining ones they need to learn, and presenting information from the other person’s point of view.
- Confirm understanding. Communication is only effective when the other person understands. Confirm what people do and do not know. Rephrase, not just repeat, information when there are gaps or misunderstandings. Make sure, as well, that you truly understand what the other person is communicating to you.
- Offer ways to learn more. You needn’t communicate everything to everyone all at once. In fact, too much information can add to confusion. Instead, communicate what people need to know now and provide credible resources so they can later learn more.
Helen Osborne expands on these best practices in her keynote presentation, “Health Literacy: What It Is, Why It Matters, How You Can Help.” And in her book. Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition.