Consider Culture and Language When Communicating About Health (HLOL #171)

Wilma Alvarado-Little MA, MSW focuses on health equity from a linguistic and cultural perspective. She serves as the Associate Commissioner for New York State’s Department of Health and Director of its Office of Minority Health & Health Disparities. Her experience includes work in public policy, research, health literacy, and health disparities prevention. Alvarado-Little also is a healthcare interpreter and has helped develop numerous hospital and clinic-based programs. She is an invited participant on many national and statewide boards that address issues of culture and language in healthcare.

In this podcast, Wilma Alvarado-Little talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Culture in health communication has many dimensions. Beyond issues of race and ethnicity, includes factors such as socioeconomic status, communication preferences, and even work schedules.
  • Language includes written words, spoken words, and numbers along with body language, context, and potential distractions.
  • Ways to consider culture and language in all forms of health communication.

More ways to learn:

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Wellness, Women, and Health Literacy (HLOL #170)

Ruth Parker MD, MACP is Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.  For over two decades, her work has focused on research, education, and policy efforts to advance our nation’s health literacy. Ruth Parker’s health literacy accomplishments are many including being an author of the Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (TOFHLA) and the widely used definition of health literacy included in numerous scholarly articles and national health policies. She is also a life-long athlete and has completed more than 25 marathons using the RunWalkRun® method. (Pictured in photo on the left)

Carmen Patrick Mohan MD FACP is an internal medicine physician, urban homesteader, and marathon runner who prescribes food and exercise as medicine. She works to foster change in healthcare delivery through internet technology, improved patient communication, and information access. Carmen Patrick Mohan specializes in cardiometabolic risk factor reduction with a focus on women. She is also a competitive runner and on a quest to complete marathons in 50 states and on 7 continents. (In photo on the right)

Dr. Ruth Parker and Dr. Carmen Patrick Mohan talk with Helen Osborne about:

  • The book they co-authored with Jeff Galloway, The Women’s Guide to Health: Run Walk Run, Eat Right, and Feel Better. What this book is about and why it was important to write.
  • How their practice as physicians, experience as marathon runners, and commitment to health literacy help women of all abilities achieve fundamental health.
  • Tips and strategies for podcast listeners–of all professions, genders, ages, and levels of activity—to help others and themselves become more fit and healthy.

More Ways to Learn:

The Women’s Guide to Health: Run Walk Run, Eat Right, and Feel Better, by Jeff Galloway, Ruth Parker, Carmen Patrick Mohan. Published by Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2018. Available on Amazon at

Author websites:

Read the written transcript.

Law Enforcement, Risk Management, and Health Literacy (HLOL #169)

Heather Schragg is Director of Patient Experience at Eaton Rapids Medical Center in Eaton Rapids, MI. She not only oversees the hospital’s Risk and Quality Management programs but also its initiatives to improve patient and employee experiences. Heather is committed to helping patients navigate and understand the complicated healthcare system.

Mitch Ross is a police officer in Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Over the years he has held many positions, including work in an Anti-Gang Unit Squad and on a Major Incident Response Team. He also is an adjunct instructor at the Milwaukee Police Training Academy. In addition, Mitch educates civilians about reporting suspicious activities and responding appropriately during active shooter events.

Helen Osborne talks with Heather Schragg and Mitch Ross about:

  • What law enforcement, hospital risk management, and health literacy have in common when it comes to health communication.
  • Effective ways to communicate when a calm situation escalates into a crisis. And ways to use words and body language to help calm a tense situation.

Communication tips that all of us, regardless of our profession or setting, can use to build trust and understanding.

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Advance Care Planning: Communicating Clearly Before There Is a Crisis (HLOL #168)

Aretha Delight Davis MD, JD, and Angelo Volandes MD, MPH, are an amazing team. They not only are married to each another but also created, run, research, and otherwise make possible ACP Decisions — an ever-growing collection of video support tools designed to help patients and families make informed decisions about advance care planning and end-of-life care. They both are physicians. Dr. Davis is also a lawyer. Their accomplishments are many and build on a deep and unwavering commitment to empowering patients.

In this podcast Dr. Davis and Dr. Volandes talk with Helen Osborne about:

  • Advance Care Planning (ACP). What it includes and why this topic is important to patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals.
  • “Death illiteracy” and other reasons it can be hard to discuss advance care planning.
  • Tips, strategies, and tools to help make advance care planning conversations easier. These include using videos and excellent consumer-facing websites.

More ways to learn:

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Efforts to Improve the Readability of Medication Labels (HLOL #167)

Joanne Schwartzberg MD is Scholar-in-Residence for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Her career is filled with important accomplishments including many years of teaching, writing, researching, and creating healthcare policy. In my opinion, it’s also thanks in large part to Dr. Schwartzberg’s leadership at the American Medical Association (AMA) that the field of health literacy has flourished and grown.

In this podcast, Dr. Joanne Schwartzberg talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Why people of all reading abilities have trouble following instructions on medication labels.
  • Ways that designers, pharmacists, scientific organizations, and others are working to improve the readability and usefulness of medication labels.
  • How podcast listeners can be part of this effort to make medication labels better.

More ways to learn:

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Using Technology to Share and Communicate the Experience of Illness (HLOL #166)

Pamela Katz Ressler MS, RN, HNB-BC, is the founder of Stress Resources in Concord, Massachusetts, a firm specializing in building resilience for individuals and organizations through connection, communication and compassion. Ressler teaches in the Pain Research, Education and Policy Program at Tufts University, serves on the Executive Board for Medicine X at Stanford University, and speaks about resilience at conferences worldwide. Pam Ressler also is an expert on using social media in healthcare.

In this podcast, Pam Ressler talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • How digital communication is helping people connect and share their experience of illness. And why this matters.
  • A rapid evolution from blogs to tweets and online peer-to-peer communities.
  • Ways that these forms of communication help patients make meaning of their illness and recovery, and move toward personalization and action.

More Ways to Learn:

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Each Patient’s Information Journey (HLOL #165)

Andy Rosenberg has over 25 years of experience as a political lobbyist, Capitol Hill staffer and former congressional candidate. In 2010, he helped create a health policy and government affairs firm called Thorn Run Partners. More recently, Andy founded a startup company called Reponsum that is developing an innovative educational tool for people with chronic diseases.

In this podcast, Andy Rosenberg talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • While the Internet may first seem like a wealth of information, patients and caregivers can easily get overwhelmed with outdated, non-customized content.
  • Responsum, an upcoming online tool with curated patient education.
  • Lessons learned from mapping patients’ information journeys. Includes 5 stages of patient centered-ness: noticing symptoms, getting a diagnosis, searching and researching, deciding about treatment, and living with a chronic disease.

More Ways to Learn:

PCORI’s Advisory Panel on Communication and Dissemination Research. Learn more at

Read the transcript of this podcast. 

Best Case/Worst Case: A Strategy to Manage Uncertainty in Shared Decision-Making (HLOL #164)

Gretchen Schwarze MD, MPP, is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Surgery and Medical History and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Schwarze is a practicing vascular surgeon and health services researcher who also directs the clinical ethics curriculum for the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.  Her research interests are in patient-doctor decision making for high-risk operations and end-of-life care for surgical patients.

In this podcast, Dr. Schwarze talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Best Case/Worst Case. A decision-making strategy that uses narrative, a graphic aid, and simplicity to communicate with families about complex treatment options.
  • Examples, stories, and research about using Best Case/Worst Case in practice.
  • Ways that patients and non-physicians can build on these lessons learned.

More ways to learn:

Read a transcript of this podcast.

Older Adults, Brain Changes, and Health Understanding (HLOL #163)

Mark Hochhauser, PhD, is a psychologist and readability consultant in Golden Valley, MN. He also is a long-time health literacy champion. Among his many accomplishments, Hochhauser has researched the readability of consent forms, HIPAA notices, and patient’s bill of rights. He has given more than 100 presentations and authored over 200 articles. Hochhauser has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses on topics that include Adulthood and Aging, Human Learning and Memory, Motivation and Emotion, and Abnormal Psychology.

In this podcast, Mark Hochhauser and Helen Osborne talk about:

  • Brain changes including working memory, processing speed, selective attention, and other factors that tend to decline with age.
  • What listeners can do to effectively communicate with older adults.
  • What patients and families can do to better understand health information.
  • How technology offers hope, opportunity, and tools for health communication.

More ways to learn:

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Deconstructing Stigma: A Very Public Multimedia Project about Mental Illness (HLOL #162)

Adriana Bobinchock is the senior director of Public Affairs and Communications for McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Bobinchock has worked in healthcare communications for more than 17 years and has a keen interest in educating the public about mental health. In 2016, Bobinchock along with her colleague Scott O’Brien, spearheaded McLean’s national public awareness campaign Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life.

In this podcast, Adriana Bobinchock talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Deconstructing Stigma. What this project is, why it got started, who’s involved, and how it is helping educate the public about mental illness.
  • Ways this project uses photos, personal stories, statistics, social media, partnerships, and public space to convey a difficult, yet important, health message.
  • Suggestions about ways to create innovative, meaningful educational projects of your own.

More ways to learn:

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Health Literacy & Consumer Health Librarians (HLOL #161)

Amy Six-Means, MLIS, is on the librarian team at Children’s Health in Dallas, Texas. She worked at two other consumer health libraries prior to that. Six-Means started as an elementary school teacher, later going back to school for a degree in library science. Along the way, she discovered the connection between medical librarianship and health literacy and has been a passionate advocate ever since.

In this podcast, Amy Six-Means talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • What consumer health librarians do, where they work, and how they help patients, caregivers, and the public better understand about illness, treatment, and health.
  • How consumer health librarians can make a difference whether working in hospitals, communities, or healthcare systems.
  • Collaborating with consumer health librarians for better health literacy.

More Ways to Learn:

Examples of collaborative partnerships with medical/consumer health librarians and community members, public health initiatives, or health care organizations to further health literacy and support patients, loved ones, and the community.

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Reaching Out to Elected Officials about Health and Health Literacy (HLOL #160)

Helen, Mike and ProclamationMichael Jackman is District Director for Massachusetts Congressman William R. Keating. Mike has a long history of public service and community outreach in the areas of health and safety, crime prevention, and wellness. He is involved with numerous initiatives and now chairs a Community Health Network Alliance (CHNA) called the South Shore Community Partners in Prevention. Health literacy is a key component of much of Mike’s work.

In this podcast, Michael Jackman talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • How elected officials can affect health policy and funding at local, state, and national levels.
  • Why it is important for everyday people to participate in this governmental process
  • Examples of ways to bridge the gap between elected officials and health literacy.

More ways to learn:

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Communicating About Food in Culturally Sensitive Ways (HLOL #159)

j-o-frempong-photoJanet Ohene-Frempong, MS, is a plain language and cross-cultural communications consultant with over 25 years of experience in consumer communications. She brings to this work a passion for health literacy and background as a registered dietitian. Janet often is invited to speak at national conferences and provides consultation on plain language and cross-cultural communications for a wide range of health information providers. Deservedly, Janet has received many honors and accolades for her work.

In this podcast, Janet Ohene-Frempong and Helen Osborne discuss:

  • Communicating about food in a multicultural world. Why this matters today.
  • Issues to consider such as whether foods are available, affordable, convenient, appropriate, and familiar.
  • Examples of respectful and inclusive ways to communicate about food. Why doing so is not only appropriate but also can be deeply satisfying and gratifying.

More Ways to Learn:

Read the transcript for this podcast.

Participants, Providers, and Policy Makers Working Together for Better Care (HLOL #158)

frank-rider-ms-07-15Frank Rider, MS, has worn many healthcare “hats.” He is a senior financing specialist within the domestic Policy, Practice and Systems Change programs at the American Institutes for Research. One of his previous jobs was as Chief of the Bureau for Children’s Services for Arizona’s Division of Behavioral Health Services. And starting soon after college, Rider was a foster parent for both the Navajo Nation and state of Arizona. Frank Rider’s life-long commitment to family-driven care builds on all these experiences and perspectives.

In this podcast, Frank Rider talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • “Triple Aim” goals for better healthcare: Better experience, better outcomes, at lowest possible cost.
  • Dissonance and tensions that sometimes arise among differing perspectives.
  • Ways to work towards better care, whatever your scope of influence.

More Ways to Learn:

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), at

Read the transcript of this podcast.

End of Life Education (HLOL #157)

1_dk_kkKathy Kastner is founder and curator of the only patient/consumer-perspective website for end of life education,, and author of the eBook, Death Kills… and other things I’ve learned on the Internet. Kastner also shares this information by speaking at healthcare conferences, blogging on health websites, hosting tweetchats, and participating in invitation-only think tanks. Kathy Kastner has received numerous awards for her advocacy and work in end of life education.

In this podcast, Kathy Kastner talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • End of life. An emotionally fraught topic often prompted by a new diagnosis, change in health status, or even news reported in the media.
  • Examples of words, terms, and end of life concepts that are often misunderstood.
  • Ways professionals can help improve education and understanding about end of life. Ways patients, families, and the public can help in these conversations too.

More Ways to Learn:

Read the written transcript of this podcast. 

Public Communication: Paying Attention to What We Say and Write (HLOL #156)

Wikipedia-academy-2009-nih-marinMarin Allen, PhD, is the Deputy Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison and Director of Public Information in the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Allen has more than 30 years experience in all aspects of public communication. Her many accomplishments include being a full professor at Gallaudet University, working as a media specialist for the White House Conference on Aging, being a faculty member at the University of Maryland, and winning two Emmy awards. She now serves on the National Academy of Medicine’s Roundtable on Health Literacy and is the NIH liaison to the Health and Human Services Workgroup on Health Literacy.

In this podcast, Dr. Marin Allen talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Why public communication is fundamental to the human condition.
  • Examples of how to consider the needs of everyone including those with communication differences, disorders, and disabilities.
  • Showing respect for, and building trust with, each audience.

More ways to learn:

Read the transcript for this podcast.

Thinking Big About Health Literacy (HLOL #155)

MAA NCH photo - 09-2014 Chapman,Shelby (014) hi-res2015 Headshot CMHall May 2014






Mary Ann Abrams, MD, MPH, is Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She previously led Iowa Health System’s (now UnityPoint Health) health literacy quality initiative and development of Health Literacy Iowa. Dr. Abrams is also author of Building Health Literate Organizations: A Guidebook to Achieving Organizational Change. Cynthia (Cyndi) Hall MHA, CPHQ, works at the Carolinas Healthcare System, rolling out health literacy education to more than 500 medical offices. As Project Manager for her organization’s “Teach Well” educational program, Cyndi inspires teammates to use proven health literacy techniques and best practices. Shelby Chapman, MA is the Health Literacy Program manager at Children’s Hospital Colorado. This program encompasses patient/family education for the whole system, affecting change throughout the organization.

In this podcast, Mary Ann Abrams, Cyndi Hall, and Shelby Chapman talk with Helen Osborne about:

  • Thinking big about health literacy. Examples of system-wide, sustainable changes to help make health literacy a part of an organization’s culture.
  • Lessons learned about key factors such as making a case for health literacy, engaging others, and measuring and documenting success.
  • Tips and recommendations for thinking big at YOUR organization.

More ways to learn:

Read the written transcript.

Open Notes: Building Transparency, Trust, and Better Health Outcomes (HLOL #154)

WoodsSusan Woods, MD, MPH, is a seasoned health care and technology executive with broad experience spanning private and public sectors. Dr. Woods not only is a general internist but also consumer informatics expert and Director of Patient Experience for the Connected Care Office at the Veterans Health Administration. Her work focuses on using technology to engage patients and families in health and healthcare. One way is by patients accessing their notes in medical records, otherwise known as Open Notes.

In this podcast, Dr. Susan Woods talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Open Notes, a way for patients to electronically and securely access their own clinical notes thought a patient portal.
  • How Open Notes benefit patients and providers through transparency, trust, and better health outcomes.
  • What to do even if your healthcare system does not yet use Open Notes.

More Ways to Learn:

Read a transcript of this podcast. 

Making Personal Health Records Accessible to All (HLOL #153)

MRothberg_Headshot_hiresMadeleine Rothberg works at the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at the public television and radio station, WGBH. Madeleine works to ensure that multimedia and information technology is accessible to all users, including people with disabilities. One of her many accomplishments is leading the Accessible Designs for Personal Health Records Project.

In this podcast, Madeleine Rothberg talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Personal Health Records (PHR). What they are and how PHRs are being used to promote health with personalized health information and education.
  • The Accessible Designs for Personal Health Records Project. Creating a model of making personal health information accessible to those who are blind, deaf, or have physical disabilities.
  • Simple tips and recommendations to help make websites more accessible by all.

More ways to learn:

Read a transcript of this podcast.

After Visit Summaries (HLOL #152)

image001-2Alex Federman. MD, MPH, is an aging-focused health services researcher at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. His research addresses chronic illness self-management in older adults and focuses on health literacy, cognition and health-related beliefs. Dr. Federman also provides primary care to adults in clinic and home-based settings in New York City.

In this podcast, Dr. Federman talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • After Visit Summaries (AVS), electronic health records, and other ways for patients and providers to exchange information.
  • Language, formatting, and other reasons AVS are not yet ideal patient summaries.
  • Ways providers and patients can use AVS to increase understanding and improve the delivery of care.

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Making a Case to Senior Leaders about Health Literacy (HLOL #151)

Barbara for Social Media-003Barbara Balik RN, EdD, worked as a nurse and nurse practitioner before moving into leadership roles as chief nursing officer, executive vice president and then CEO of large hospitals and clinics in an extensive healthcare system. Balik co-founded Aefina Partners, an organization committed to healthcare transformation through partnerships among healthcare leaders, physicians, team members, patients, and families. She is on the Senior Faculty at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and a member of the National Patient Safety Foundation Board of Governors.

In the podcast, Barbara Balik talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Framing health literacy as essential for partnerships with patients, families, and the community.
  • Six steps for talking about health literacy with senior executives.
  • Making a case for health literacy even when it feels like pushing a rock up the hill.

More ways to learn:

Read the transcript for this podcast. 

Ethics to Consider When Communicating About Health (HLOL #150)

mbsiegel_largeDr. Michael Siegel is a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. He is a long-time researcher in tobacco control, publishing extensively on topics that include secondhand smoke, tobacco policy, and national strategies to reduce tobacco use. Dr. Siegel is a leader in the anti-tobacco movement, testifying in support of smoke-free workplace laws and serving as an expert witness in lawsuits against tobacco companies.

In this podcast, Dr. Michael Siegel talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Hard choices to make when conveying information to the public. For instance, is the intent of your message to inform or persuade? How to communicate risk?
  • Examples of how to be honest, transparent, and clear when informing others about health.
  • Building a trusted relationship with the audience and maintain credibility over time.

More Ways to Learn:

  • Osborne H, Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition. 2011, Jones & Bartlett Learning. Includes the chapter, “Ethics of Simplicity.”
  • Osborne H, “In other words: The ethics of simplicity,” On Call magazine, 2004. At

Read the podcast transcript.

Working with Journalists to Communicate about Health (HLOL #149)

imgres-1-1Beth Daley is a senior investigative reporter and senior trainer at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR), a non-profit based at Boston University and the public television/radio station WGBH. Prior to NECIR, Daley was a reporter for many years at The Boston Globe, focusing primarily on science and the environment. She has won numerous national journalism awards including a Knight Journalism Fellowship and being named a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

In this podcast, Beth Daley talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • The different forms of journalism including newspaper reporting, enterprise stories, and in-depth investigations.
  • Challenges ahead for journalists and health literacy when communicating about complicated new topics, such as genomics.
  • Ways that non-journalists can be discerning consumers of health and health news.
  • Types of stories that may be of interest to journalists.

More Ways to Learn:

Read a transcript of this podcast.

Lawyers Can Help with Health Literacy, Too (HLOL #148)

Trudeau-faculty picture-touched upChristopher Trudeau is a Professor at Western Michigan University, Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He is one of the leading advocates on health literacy and the law and widely recognized as an expert on informed consent. Trudeau often speaks to audiences of health professionals, or lawyers, or both about creating processes to not only engage patients but also protect healthcare organizations.

In this podcast, Christopher Trudeau talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Why lawyers are starting to be more aware of, and engaged with, health literacy
  • How lawyers can use plain language to protect their clients while also helping patients understand medical-legal information
  • Ways that public health professionals, clinicians, and others can start working with lawyers to make health messages clear

More ways to learn:

Read the written transcript.

Children, Media, and Positive Health Messaging (HLOL #147)

Dina and friendDina Borzekowski, Ed.D., is the Interim Director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Health Literacy. She also is an international expert on children, media, and health. Borzekowski’s research explores how children and adolescents use media as well as media’s effect on the health and well-being of youth.

In this podcast, Dina Borzekowski talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • The intersection of children everywhere with media in its many formats.
  • Research about positive and negative effects of media on children of all ages.
  • Recommendations for developing media messages that can improve children’s lives.
  • Ways professionals and parents can help when it comes to media messages.

More Ways to Learn:

  • Borzekkowski DLG, Cohen JE, “International Reach of Tobacco Marketing Among Young Children,” Pediatrics, Volume 132, Number 4, October 2013.
  • Borzekowski, DLG, “Considering Children and Health Literacy: A Theoretical Approach,” Pediatrics 2009;124;S282.
  • Borzekowski is happy to chat about health literacy or children, media, and health. Feel free to contact her by email at

Read the transcript for this podcast.