Live from HxD: Writing Content for Low Health Literacy

Writing Content for Low Health Literacy, by Emily Broderick

Logo for the Health Experience Design conferenceHealth literacy: the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services in order to make appropriate health decisions.”

The top 3 health searches:

  • pregnancy symptoms
  • flu symptoms
  • diabetes symptoms

More than 35% of people go online to self-diagnose their symptoms (as of 2013). So we need to make sure they can understand and act on what they find.

Health information is difficult to take on.

  • Even well educated people struggle with health information
  • Health information consumed in a stressful situation is unlikely to stick
  • Low literacy is linked to poor health outcomes and higher healthcare costs

What We Know About People with Low Health Literacy

People with low health literacy:

  • May read slowly
  • Reread content
  • Some plow through content
  • Someskipcontent
  • Some start reading in the middle
  • More likely to access on mobile

How to Write in Plain Language

  • AHA Media has a 10 step checklist called “Creating Valuable Content.”
  • They also use the inverted pyramid for news writing. Assume people might stop reading at any time.
  • Use a spellcheck/passive voice check tool like Grammerly
  • Be positive
  • Use short chunks and bulleted lists
  • Define medical terms
  • Include calls to action (no dead ends!!)

But the most important thing? Empathy.

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