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.

Guidelines

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.

Health literacy
  • 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
Data presentations
  • 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)
Plain language
  • 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.

Examples

CDC Vital Signs fact sheets - Examples of plain language and data presentation guidelines in practice (Source: CDC)