Monday, August 18, 2014

HPV information worth checking out

I write a lot about the mounds of health information that fails to communicate clearly to the majority of the US public  -  not highly science and health literate and who labor to read well.

When NYC City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito tweeted last night that she had been diagnosed with "high risk" HPV, I knew that many women would not know exactly what this meant. But social media would spread the word and women would want to know.

My google search hit on the CDC Fact Sheet first, and so I took a look.

The language and text elements used here result in a message that is  meaningfully useful to a broad audience of readers.
Excerpt of first paragraph -

"HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is a different virus than HIV and HSV (herpes).  HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. But there are vaccines that can stop these health problems from happening."

The current CDC HPV Fact Sheet has a number of things to commend it:

  1. generally easy vocabulary ( 6th-8th grade) with no medical jargon
  2. mostly simple and compound sentence structures - avoiding disjointed, staccato-like simple sentences
  3. helpful repetition of the key topic noun so people know what is being referred to - good coherence
  4. a thoughtful strategy - 
    • normalizes HPV at the start instead of striking dread into readers.  Dread predisposes many not to read on 
    • clearly distinguishes HPV from HIV and HSV within the first two sentences - orthographically ( referring to the visual array of the abbreviated letters) - helping readers not confuse these medical acronyms. 
To balance my enthusiasm, it's probably time to steel myself and take a look at what the SANEVAX folks have brewed up.

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