Saturday, March 16, 2019

Health Literacy Was a Bad Choice

This is a slide I used at this week's European Health Literacy Conference in Dublin. Most in the audience said it was a new way to look at a lot of the limiting narratives of contemporary health literacy. I agree. 

*A colleague once stated that in the US alone from the late 1980s to now over 800 articles have been published on health literacy.  The vast majority of them identifying what patients and consumers can't read or understand or do when it comes to health.

I think we can drop that mantra now, don't you?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Health literacy is in the cracks

Here's  an example of a fairly simple sentence that isn’t so simple unless you have the needed, underlying health literacy - health concept.

If you have been exposed to measles and feel ill, stay home to help prevent the spread of the disease. Call your healthcare provider to ask about testing and advice. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, call your local health department. If you need help with getting access to health care, call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

Let’s focus on the seemingly easy to read sentence:
If you have been exposed to measles and feel ill, stay home to help prevent the spread of the disease.

When you unpack the sentence you get:

1.    You have been exposed to measles.
2.    You feel ill.
3.    Stay home.
4.     Staying home will help prevent the disease from spreading.

This text (sentence/message) assumes a specific health literacy that the reader may not have.  The text assumes the reader knows the relationship between staying home and spreading a disease. The needed health literacy is found in the cracks - the small connective tissue  (phrases & clauses) of the sentence. In other words the reader has to know that measles is contagious and if you go to a provider waiting room (doctor, emergency room, clinic), you can spread the disease.

Try This 

If you have been exposed to measles and feel ill, stay home and call your provider.  If you go directly to your provider you can spread measles in the waiting room. Stay home, call your provider and you can help stop the spread of measles.

To watch a short educational video on "unpacking sentences" visit my website  for a library of free lessons

"Unpacking Sentences"

Friday, February 15, 2019

Explaining Measles: Language Acting Badly

This is an image of the Clark County Washington Public Health website

Language Acting Badly 

Clark County Public Health is urging anyone who has been exposed and believes they have symptoms of measles to call their health care provider prior to visiting the medical office to make a plan that avoids exposing others in the waiting room. People who believe they have symptoms of measles should not go directly to medical offices, urgent care centers or emergency departments (unless experiencing a medical emergency) without calling in advance.

Language diagnosis:

         Unnecessarily long, complex sentence with multiply embedded clauses and phrases.
          who has been exposed
          and believes...
          prior to visiting...
          to make a plan...
          that avoids
Here are the individual statements/propositions of this complex sentence:

 1.  Clark County is urging you to do x ( something)
 2.  You are someone who has measles symptoms
 3.  You are someone that thinks you have been exposed to measles
 4.  You should call your provider before you go to a provider
 5.  You could expose other people to measles 
 6.  The people are in the waiting room. 
 7.  The provider will give you a plan to avoid exposing others to the measles

7 statements are way to ( or too) many to be crunched into one sentence if you're writing for clarity and ease of reading.  

How About This 

If you have symptoms of measles, or if you think you were exposed to measles, call your health provider first. Do not go to the provider until you call because measles can spread from person to person.  When you call the provider they will tell you the best way to keep other patients safe in the waiting room.  



Thursday, February 14, 2019

Hilton checkout screen - Say What?

I like Hilton as far as big chain hotels go. Good beds, clean rooms, helpful staff.  Good signage, nice pool and bar.

But what were they thinking when they posted these checkout instructions on my room TV!

“Upon” sounded better in the 18th century.  “When I gaze upon your face...”
“Retain” works best in the legal world. “ Retain this document for your records “

How about -
When you check out keep your room key.......