If health professionals want to reach people with information, they must take steps to ensure information, products, and services are accessible and understandable to their intended audiences. The following resources serve as helpful tools and guides as you develop a wide-array of health information online and off. Two decades of research indicate that much health information is presented in ways that are not understandable by most Americans. Use the guidance documents and standards and the resources for materials development to ensure your health information is accurate, accessible and actionable.
Health information should be:
- Accurate: Using health literacy best practices does not mean "dumbing-down" the information or distorting the science. Health literacy practices ensure that the information is presented accurately AND in ways that people can understand.
- Accessible: Just because you create health information doesn't mean people see it or can use it. An often over-looked aspect of health literacy is the issue of access. How are you presenting your information? Is the font large enough? Do you use sub-heads and bullets to chunk the information? Do the images match the text? Where are you distributing your information? How will people who aren't actively looking for your information be exposed to it? Even in the digital age, where posting information on the Web is easy and low-cost, the Web is not always the best way to reach "the general public." Multiple channels and formats are best, and it is your responsibility to ensure the information you created reaches the public in a useable format.
- Actionable: It is human nature to want to tell people all we know about something, but that doesn't necessarily help. In the health field, we typically want people to start or stop doing something, or do more or less of something. However, we often spend our resources giving people background information instead of our recommendations. Some background information may be important, but make sure you provide actionable information so the people you want to reach CAN do something with the information provided.