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:

  • 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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  • The Caring Part of Healthcare December 1, 2020
    Many of us chose the work we do because of a desire to help others. But this intent can sometimes get overlooked midst an overwhelming amount of workplace demands. Here are some tips to help you focus again on the caring part of healthcare. Caring for others. Demonstrate caring not just with your words but also ...
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  • Communicating with People Who Have Mild Memory Loss November 1, 2020
    Health communication is often a challenge. Patients and caregivers might have new terms to learn, numbers to understand, and hard choices to make. Healthcare providers not only need to prioritize what to communicate but also quickly figure out how. When a patient has mild memory loss or other cognitive challenge, communication that was already difficult now ...
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  • Ethics of Simplicity October 1, 2020
    In many ways, plain language writers act as translators of scientific and medical information—communicating complicated, rapidly-changing, often-ambiguous health information in a manner that is sufficiently clear for those of average reading skills to understand. This process includes more than just replacing multi-syllabic terms with one- and two-syllable words. It’s about writing in ways that acknowledge and ...
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  • Communicating with People from Other Cultures and Languages September 1, 2020
    Accessing, using, and understanding the U.S. healthcare system is difficult for almost everyone. But for people who speak limited English or come from other cultures, these tasks might seem impossible. In terms of language, it can take people many years to become fluent. With limited English, people may have sufficient social language to talk about the ...
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  • Communicating with Older Adults August 1, 2020
    Adults aged 65 years and older are a significant and ever-increasing percentage of the population. Collectively, they are a remarkably diverse group as people in their mid-60s are apt to have far different needs and abilities than those who are two, three, or more decades older. Individually, older adults of course can differ even more. ...
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