The Horowitz Center promotes a science-based approach to clear communication and health literacy improvement. Absent specific research, we rely on best practices to inform our work creating clear, useful, and easy-to-understand health messages and materials.
Researchers and practitioners create, evaluate, or revise public health messages and materials for many different audiences, purposes, and topics.
- Audiences can include any segment of the public; clinicians; public health staff; community health workers; and policymakers.
- Examples of materials include infographics, websites, brochures, newsletters, flyers, toolkits, and resource guides.
- Message topics might concern, for example, promoting or discouraging behaviors; learning about a health issue; motivating information seeking; advocating for health policies; or using evidence-based resources
- Purposes might be clinical care; public health campaigns; community service and engagement; health education; and science and policy communication.
The Center recommends following guidelines every time you or your organization delivers information or services for health and well-being. Following guidelines ensures consistency and maximizes effectiveness.
- CDC Clear Communication Index - Use this set of 24 science-based questions to determine if a message or material will be more likely to match the health literacy skills of your intended audience (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Office of the Associate Director for Communication)
- 10 Attributes of a Health Literate Organization - The attributes describe what organizations can do to lower barriers for people to get and use health information and services (Source: CDC Office of the Associate Director for Communication)
Cultural and linguistic competence
- National Standards on Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) - Use this set of 15 action steps to implement CLAS in healthcare organizations. These standards also address the need for certified translators and interpreters when engaging in any form of health communication. (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health)
- Making Data Talk - Guidelines on how to present data in reader-friendly formats (Source: NIH National Cancer Institute)
Matching messages and materials to audience and purpose
- CDC's Clear Communication Index User Guide includes a Quick Guide on knowing audience and purpose and two of the first Index questions concern audience and communication objective (Source: CDC Office of the Associate Director for Communication)
- Federal plain language guidelines - Use these basic guidelines for creating easy-to-read, conversational messages and materials for any audience and topic. (Source: Plain Language Action and Information Network)
- Key guidelines include writing in active voice and using common words, short sentences and paragraphs, pronouns, headings, and lists.
CDC Vital Signs fact sheets - Examples of plain language and data presentation guidelines in practice (Source: CDC)