A conversation with you about health literacy

In my conversations about health literacy with health providers, we talk about how they communicate health messages to their patients and clients.

I hear about the same challenges in every conversation:

As we manage our lives, protect our health, and treat our illnesses, we all have to meet these challenges; understand the language and reduce the complexity, so that we can use the information. In a way, the language of health is a foreign language; you have to find out what the words mean so you can use them.

Image, Health information on a pill bottle.

We need to understand the language so we can use the information.
Image by David Goehring / CC BY

Develop a dual language to deliver your health messages

We recommend that health providers develop a dual language — a medical language to talk to their colleagues, and an everyday language to explain medical terms to their patients and clients.

Use a universal approach to health literacy

At Write we recommend a universal approach to communicating with a public audience or unknown readers. You can’t tell by looking who can read well or whether they understand.

People who work in health will recognise the value of a universal approach; they know the principles of infection control. They use ‘universal precautions’ because you can’t tell by looking who has an infection.

Our universal approach is to consistently apply plain language techniques when you give someone information. Using plain language techniques every time you write or talk gives readers and listeners a better chance of understanding and using the information for their benefit.

Learn more about reducing the complexity of everything in Helen Osborne’s regular Health Literacy Out Loud podcasts

Contact us to talk about:

Learn to write health information clearly

Health Information Lab: deliver or write health information that’s easy to take in and use


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