Health Literacy Matters

When developing educational materials for your clients, we understand that taking a one-size-fits-all approach typically doesn't work. According to the CDC, only 12% of Americans have the health literacy skills necessary to properly manage their health. In addition, the average reading level in the United States is around a 7th-8th grade level.

Why is health literacy important?

Health literacy goes beyond an individual's ability to read and write. Even people who read well can struggle with health literacy. For example, if you've ever been to a medical appointment and the doctor or healthcare provider used medical terms that you're unfamiliar with, you've encountered a health literacy challenge.

It's all too easy for healthcare professionals, including educators, to forget that while they are familiar with specific terms, conditions, and procedures, and explain them day in and day out, most lay people aren't so comfortable with the jargon. In the rush of the day, or when trying to finish a class, it's easy to lose sight of this critical fact.

As educators, if we don't tailor our messaging to our target audience and strongly consider health literacy, quite a few problems can result:

  • Your clients will not understand the information being presented and won't be able to take the steps necessary to incorporate it into their lives.
  • A client may misunderstand what you're saying.
  • Your clients may become confused and take the wrong steps or actions, leading to unwanted results.

Keep in mind that even individuals with high health literacy want the information presented to them to be clear, easy to understand, and meaningful. So no matter who your target audience is, health literacy is something you have to consider.

How to factor health literacy into your classes

Being mindful of health literacy involves several steps. The CDC created some guidelines to help clarify the issue of health literacy. At Plumtree Baby, we incorporate their recommendations into every resource we make. So when it comes to your handouts, curriculum, books, and visual aids, you can have the peace of mind that all of the health literacy work has been done for you.

Here are a few of the ways that we make sure that all Plumtree Baby resources are optimized with the best health literacy practices:

  • We lead with the most essential information first, always explaining the what and the why
  • We get the most important information out there and avoid incorporating too many confusing details
  • We use active voice instead of passive voice in our writing
  • We explain why the material matters to your client
  • We limit the use of technical and medical jargon that your clients might not understand
  • We thoughtfully consider fonts, font sizing, and imagery to tell the story and enhance the learning experience
  • We offer our resources in multiple languages so your clients can have their resources in their native language

Our Instructor Tools (curriculums and PowerPoints) also help you to incorporate health literacy into your classes with straight-forward lesson plans, consistent messaging, visual reinforcement and more. 

As an educator, incorporating health literacy best practices is an ongoing process. Be mindful of your audience, their challenges, and the steps you can take to make their educational journey easier. 

For more information on health literacy, visit Simply Put by the CDC, Understanding Health Literacy, and Develop and Test Materials.

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