How-To Tips

Health Literacy

Creative Ways to Communicate Serious Health Messages

Jun 1, 2022

Health messages tend to be about serious topics. But must these messages always be communicated in somber (some might say, boring) ways? I think not. Instead, you might consider adding a dose of creativity. Creativity is rooted in the philosophy that people have more capacity to learn when they are engaged and relaxed. It is often multimodal and therefore appealing to people’s varied learning styles of seeing, doing, listening, and interacting. A bonus is that creative health messages can effectively reach audiences of all ages, abilities, cultures, and levels of experience and education.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of interviewing a number of people who creatively and effectively communicate about a wide range of health topics. Here are examples from my Health Literacy Out Loud (HLOL) podcast series:

  • Online Games and Health Teaching: For People of All Ages, Abilities, and Savvy (HLOL #205). Nick Bowman Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University. He spoke of the many ways that people can benefit from online games including to manage stress, improve cognitive abilities, and interact with others. He gives examples of games that can be tools for health teaching.  
  • Ethnodrama: Conveying Health Concepts in Culturally Relevant Ways (HLOL #140). Anita Woodley is an award-winning actress, playwright, producer, musician, poet, journalist, HIV counselor, and healthcare advocate. One powerful way she communicates is with ethnodramas—non-traditional theatrical performances used to educate, promote, and prevent harmful practices to overall health. Woodley demonstrates how to use characters, language, and laughter to teach about health.  
  • Comics and Medicine: That’s Health Literacy, Too (HLOL #110). MK Czerwiec is a nurse who makes comics. In this podcast interview she explains how comics use sequential art to teach about health, illness, and medicine. She also shares how comics transcend differences in culture, language, and educational level.
  • Poetry and Other Artful Ways to Communicate Health Messages (HLOL #99)Elspeth Murray is a Scottish poet. In this podcast she reads aloud her poem, “This is Bad Enough” about why health communication is hard and ways to make it easier. Elspeth also talks about using the arts to engage, entertain, and educate audiences. 

More ways to learn: