Here’s a worthwhile idea that we can all get behind. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released its National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. It’s aimed at making health information and services easier to understand and use.
The plan calls for improving the jargon-filled language, dense writing, and complex explanations that often fill patient handouts, medical forms, health web sites, and recommendations to the public.
Hopefully, professional communicators do this daily, but it sounds like they’re talking to just about everyone who works in healthcare marketing, advertising, PR, and doctor/physician marketing. It’s a good reminder and a worthwhile practice.
According to the HSS report: “…efforts to improve the health literacy skills of both the public and health professionals are needed to achieve a health literate society—a critical need as health reform generates more demand for consumer and patient information that is easy-to-understand and culturally and linguistically appropriate.”
Only 12 percent of English-speaking adults in the US have proficient health literacy skills. The overwhelming majority of adults have difficulty understanding and using everyday health information that comes from many sources, including the media, web sites, nutrition and medicine labels, and health professionals.
HHS goes on to say: “The action plan contains seven goals, each with specific strategies for different sectors of the health system, such as payers, the media, government agencies, and health care professionals, to improve health literacy. These goals emphasize the importance of creating health and safety information that is accurate, accessible, and actionable.”
The goals are worthy. Although the plan itself is a bit wordy and bureaucratic sounding, you can find more information and a summary of the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy here.
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