How-To Tips

Health Literacy

Each month, Helen Osborne posts tips about how to communicate health information more clearly. Here is a listing of some recent HLC (Health Literacy Consulting) How-To Tips:

  • Asking: A Way to Know if Others Understand December 1, 2021
    You spoke about a certain topic. You wrote about it, too. You even drew pictures explaining more. But will your audience understand and relate to the information that you are trying to convey? The best way I know to find out is by asking. Here are examples about how-to: Teach-back, for spoken communication. After talking about a certain ...
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  • Communicating When Naked: Lessons Learned as a Patient November 1, 2021
    Talking about health and other medical matters had always been easy for me. As an occupational therapist and health literacy consultant, I felt confident and in charge of conversations no matter which professional “hat” I was wearing. But after a routine mammogram turned out not to be so routine, I felt more than hatless. I ...
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  • Why Health Literacy Matters October 1, 2021
    Health literacy is at the forefront of many current health initiatives. That’s great, of course. But I sometimes wonder why it’s getting more attention than in years past. Here are my musings about why health literacy matters today:  Patients need to understand health information quickly because they have less direct contact with their providers. This can include ...
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  • Using Stories to Teach About Health September 1, 2021
    Stories are powerful health communication tools. By combining emotions and facts, stories can help people connect with health information in a more personal way. Stories can help people of all ages and cultures find qualities they have in common. Stories not only can be engaging but also are easy for most people to understand—even by those ...
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  • Metaphors, Similes, and Analogies August 1, 2021
    Metaphors, similes, and analogies are figures of speech used to help people understand unfamiliar words and concepts. They do so by comparing new information to that which people already know. While there are important distinctions among the three forms of speech, for sake of simplicity I’ll use the overall term “metaphor.” Here are some how-to ways ...
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  • Helping Patients Problem-Solve July 1, 2021
    The more stories I hear from family and friends about medical mishaps, the more I become convinced that patients need yet another skill–the ability to independently figure out what to do in unexpected or unfamiliar situations. Here are my musings about how professionals can help patients problem-solve. Appreciate that patients will have “oops” moments. Perhaps a ...
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  • Respecting Our Readers June 1, 2021
    Here’s my wish. As you choose words and graphics for health-related materials, please consider not only the learning and language needs of your intended audience but also their emotions and life experiences. Several years ago I was leading a plain language workshop for directors of programs for victims of domestic violence. One design strategy I ...
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  • Listening & Speaking May 1, 2021
    Health Literacy How-To Just because listening and speaking happen a lot doesn’t mean that this form of communication is always easy or effective. For instance, speaking can be hard when providers are rushed, explain the same concepts over and over again, or assume that patients understand everything being said. For patients, listening can be hard because ...
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  • Community connections: Everyone benefits when local resources team up with health services April 1, 2021
    Whether people live in large cities or small towns, they often have access to a wide range of community resources. These can include public agencies such as libraries and police and fire departments. Also, community services like senior centers, literacy programs, and places of worship. And businesses such as barbershops, laundromats, and hotels. Even health ...
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  • Health Literacy & Health Equity March 1, 2021
    Health literacy is about communicating health information in ways that patients and the public can understand. It also is about doing so in ways that your audience can relate to and will accept. In other words, health literacy is about equity not just information. I recently interviewed Janet Ohene-Frempong, MS for a Health Literacy Out Loud ...
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  • Dealing with Uncertainty, Responding with Urgency, Acknowledging Divergent Beliefs February 1, 2021
    Remember when “all” we had to deal with when communicating health information was word choice, graphics, and such? That was already a lot. But these days there is even more to consider given rampant uncertainty, urgency, and strongly held yet widely divergent beliefs. Here is what I’m learning from guests on my podcast series, Health Literacy ...
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  • Health Literacy Along the Continuum of Care January 1, 2021
    Health literacy matters along the continuum of care. This includes wellness, access, illness, and self-care. Wherever we work and whatever we do, it is important to consider health literacy at all phases along the continuum of care. Here are some suggestions about ways to help. Wellness. This is about doing what’s needed for people to stay healthy, ...
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