Visual Metaphors: When Words Alone Are Not Enough (HLOL #178)

Alex Thomas MDand Gary Ashwal MA are co-founders of Booster Shot Media. Alex is a board-certified pediatric allergist/immunologist and a cartoonist/illustrator with more than 20 years’ experience. Gary is a health communication specialist and multimedia producer of healthcare content. With 15+ years of creative partnership, Alex and Gary apply their combined experience to produce comic books, animation, and other visual projects to teach people of all ages about complex health topics.

In this podcast, Helen Osborne talks with Alex Thomas and Gary Ashwal about:

  • Communicating in non-traditional ways as with comics, animation, and whiteboards
  • Examples of using visual metaphors to help explain complex medical concepts
  • Tips for creating and using visual teaching tools in your healthcare practice

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 14, 16, 25, 28, 31, 38, 42

Read this podcast transcript. 

Making Lab Test Results More Meaningful (HLOL #175)

Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher, Ph.D.is Associate Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education and Research Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He also is Associate Director of University of Michigan’s Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine. Trained in decision psychology and behavioral economics, Dr. Zikmund-Fisher designs and evaluates novel communication methods to make health data more intuitively meaningful, studies the effects of poor numeracy on the public’s use of health data, and explores the power of narratives in health communications. He developed and teaches graduate courses in health risk communication and designing memorable (“sticky”) health messages.

In this podcast, Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher talk with Helen Osborne about:

  • Why it is important that patients understand lab test results. And why this is so hard for many people to do.
  • How visual cues such as number lines, ranges of relevant values, colors, and harm anchors (with simple words) can help patients not only understand lab results but also figure out what, if any, actions to take.
  • Takeaways from this research that clinicians can use in everyday practice.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 6, 8, 9, 12, 26, 37, 38

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Talking About Ticks and Other Environmental Health Concerns. (HLOL #173)

Aaron Frechette’s background is in journalism. Starting as a teenager, Frechette has worked in both radio and newspaper as a reporter and editor. He also is experienced in facilitating public forums about issues that affect the community. Frechette now brings this wide array of communication skills to his work at the Rhode Island Department of Health. In this podcast, Aaron Frechette speaks for himself and his views do not necessarily reflect those of his employer.

In this podcast, Aaron Frechette talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Why it’s important to talk with the public about ticks and other environmental concerns. And reasons that doing so can be difficult.
  • Effective strategies to communicate environmental health messages–even when the science is hard to understand, issues may be controversial, and resources are limited.
  • Resources to share, build upon, and use in collaboration.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 13, 27

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Digital Content Strategy: Being Agile When Communicating About Health (HLOL #172)

Leigh Curtin-Wilding, MSc is a content author, strategist, storyteller, and marketing communication professional. Her passion is making health information usable and meaningful for today’s consumer. Leigh serves as director of, and teaches at, Boston University’s online graduate program in Health Communication.

In this podcast, Leigh Curtin-Wilding talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Being agile in health communication, prepared to adapt content to changing conditions, policies, and formats.
  • Understanding the user’s journey that includes actions, emotions, and how they access information.
  • Tips for effective communication including understanding the audience, chunking information, having short bursts of information, and using visuals and good design.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 34, 35, 36, 39

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:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 5, 8, 12, 13, 19, 26, 32, 38, 41

Read a 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:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 13, 19, 31, 38, 40

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:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 1, 13, 18, 27

Read the transcript for this podcast.

Presenting Data in Ways that Work for Most People, Most of the Time (HLOL #113)

Pictures of Sally 2013Sally Bigwood lives in the United Kingdom and has worked in a number of fields including publishing, sales, government, and the UK’s National Health Service. These fields all need to communicate data in ways that everyday folks can understand. To help, Sally Bigwood along with her sister Melissa Spore, founded Plain Figures and co-authored the book, A Designers Guide to Presenting Numbers, Figures, and Charts.

In this podcast, Sally Bigwood talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Presenting data as simply and clearly as possible.
  • Putting figures into a logical order.
  • Keeping comparisons close.
  • Rounding figures so they are easier to understand, compare, and recall.

More Ways to Learn:

  • Plain Figures. At http://www.plainfigures.com
  • Bigwood S, Spore M, The Designer’s Guide to Presenting Numbers, Figures, and Charts. The Allworth Press (2013).
  • Freeman JV, Walters SJ, Campbell MJ, How to Display Data. BMJ Books (2008).
  • “When Communicating Risk, Consider What Patients Need and Want to Know (HLOL #102).” Health Literacy Out Loud podcast interview with Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher. At http://www.healthliteracy.com/hlol-risk
  • “Clearly Communicating Scientific Information (HLOL #83).” Health Literacy Out Loud podcast interview with Dr. David Nelson. Athttp://healthliteracy.com/hlol-scientific-information

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 12, 26, 38.

Read a transcript of this podcast.

Comics and Medicine: That’s Health Literacy, Too. (HLOL #110)

MKMK Czerwiec is a nurse who makes comics. MK has a Masters degree in medical humanities from Northwestern University, where she developed and teaches a seminar to medical students called “Drawing Medicine.” With Ian Williams, a doctor in the UK who also makes comics, MK co-runs GraphicMedicine.org, a website that looks at the intersection between comics and the discourse of medicine.

In this podcast, MK Czerwiec talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • How comics use sequential art to tell about health, illness, and medicine.
  • Why comics are effective and how they transcend differences in culture, language, and educational level.
  • What listeners can do to find, create, use, and learn more about comics in medicine.

Ways to Learn More:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 14, 17, 31, 32, 38, 40.

Read a transcript of this podcast.

When Communicating Risk, Consider What Patients Need and Want to Know (HLOL #102)

BZF Donaghue headshotBrian J. Zikmund-Fisher, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. He also is a Research Assistant Professor in their Internal Medicine Department and affiliated with several other University of Michigan’s programs. With a background in decision psychology and behavioral economics, Dr. Zikmund-Fisher teaches, researches, and writes about meaningful ways to communicate risk and other number-based health messages.

In this podcast, Dr. Zikmund-Fisher talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • How all risk communications are not the same.
  • The responsibility of the communicator to consider the spectrum of patient’s needs before deciding what to provide.
  • How to align the format of risk information to its purpose. In other words, how to know when we want numbers and when we might not.
  • The pros and cons of different formats for discussing risk including icon arrays and other visual ways of showing probabilities, labels that group numbers into categories, and narratives that recount lived experience but ignore probability.
  • Thoughts about the history and future of risk communication.

More Ways to Learn:

  • Zikmund-Fisher BJ, “The Right Tool is What They Need, Not What We Have: A Taxonomy of Appropriate Levels of Precision in Patient Risk Communication,” Medical Care Research and Review. Published online September 6, 2012. Full text available at http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/98434
  • Icon Array, a free online tool to communicate your risk information in a matrix, http://www.iconarray.com

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 8, 9, 11, 13, 26, 38.

Read a transcript of this podcast.

How Visual Cues Help Readers Read (HLOL #95)

JosiahFiskAugust2012Josiah Fisk is founder and president of More Carrot, a firm that combines plain language with information design to create simplified, user-centric documents. While Fisk often works on consumer financial products, he also has experience with healthcare providers, software companies, and the IRS. More Carrot is a global company with offices in Boston and Luxembourg.

In this podcast, Josiah Fisk talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • How information design improves readability and navigation.
  • Ways that visual cues make it easier for readers to complete forms and other business or informational documents.
  • Suggestions about using photos, spacing, sub-headings, and other design elements in healthcare documents.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 9, 12, 30.

Read a transcript of this podcast.

Choosing A Health Plan: Ways to Make This Experience Easier and More Consumer-Friendly (HLOL #87)

Lynn Quincy is a senior health policy analyst for Consumers Union–the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. Quincy works on a wide variety of health policy issues that often focus on consumer protections, consumers’ health insurance literacy, and health insurance reform at the federal and state levels.

In this podcast, Quincy talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Choosing a health plan. Why this task is often so hard for consumers.
  • Ways to make this experience easier and more consumer-friendly.
  • Strategies to help, including: choice architecture, cognitive shortcuts, stories, visuals, and doing the math for consumers.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 4, 11, 13, 30, 36, 39.

Read the transcript of this podcast.

A Tool That Pictures Pain (HLOL #78)

Kim Kristiansen MD lives and works in Denmark. He not only is practicing physician but also CEO of a company called EvidenceProfile ApS. Dr. Kristiansen’s work often focuses on pain, pain management, and pain research. He, along with two colleagues, invented DoloTest®– a validated, multidimensional pain assessment tool that actively involves the patient.

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

  • Why it is so important, yet difficult, for providers and patients to talk about pain.
  • How chronic (persistent) pain affects many aspects of a person’s life.
  • Ways DoloTest® helps patients and providers reach a shared understanding about pain.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 5, 8, 9, 38.

Read a transcript of this podcast.

Consumer Reports Health Ratings (HLOL #75)

John Santa MD, MPH is Director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. For many years, he worked as a primary care physician, healthcare executive, researcher, and policy maker. Now Dr. Santa and others work to evaluate and compare health services, products and practitioners based on current, robust, and independent sources of information.

In this podcast, Dr. Santa and Helen Osborne talk about:

  • Consumer Reports: How it helps consumers make purchasing decisions.
  • Why it is important for individuals to understand health ratings.
  • How Consumer Reports uses symbols, summaries, and narratives.
  • Strategies and resources for listeners to use in day-to-day practice.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 4, 9, 11, 13, 38.

Read a written transcript of this podcast.

From the Tooth’s Point of View: Communicating Serious Health Messages with Wit and Whimsy (HLOL #58)

Jeanette Courtad DDS is a practicing dentist. She has worked with patients of all ages—from outreach programs at primary schools to now being the dentist at the Colorado School of Mines Student Health Center.

Dr. Courtad is also an artist with a lifetime of experience painting, dancing, and sculpting. She combines her artistic talents with a passion for educating children about the need for better oral hygiene in her new book, Toothful Tales: How We Survived the Sweet Attack.

In this podcast, she talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Why preventive health messages are often difficult to communicate.
  • Ways to draw attention to your message with empathy, wit, and whimsy.
  • Strategies that work with children, young adults, and even parents.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 14, 17, 38,

Interactive Multimedia in Health Education (HLOL #45)

Karen Baker is Senior Vice President for Consumer Experience at Healthwise–a non-profit health communications company based in Boise, Idaho. As a team, Healthwise developed an interactive multimedia educational series called “Conversations.”

“Conversation on Dealing With Low Back Pain” recently received a top award for outstanding communication from the Center for Plain Language. Baker talks about the process that Healthwise used to develop, test, and implement this interactive, innovative educational tool.

Topics include:

  • How interactive multimedia can help people learn about their health.
  • Communicating important messages with metaphors, characterization, graphics, humor, and other creative strategies.
  • Working as a team to create, test, and implement innovative projects.
  • Lessons learned that listeners can use in day-to-day practice.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 9, 28, 36.

Developing Healthcare Materials With and For Village Health Workers (HLOL #18)

Curt Wands-Bourdoiseau is a physician assistant who has worked in free and community clinics across the United States. He has also trained village health workers in rural, isolated and conflict zones in Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia. Curt now works at the Hesperian Foundation in Berkeley, CA – serving as the project manager for the first major rewrite of the internationally renowned village health worker training book, Where There Is No Doctor.

In this podcast, he talks with Helen Osborne about developing healthcare materials with and for village health workers. Topics include:

  • Overview about the Hesperian Foundation
  • About Hesperian’s books, including Where There Is No Doctor
  • Materials development process using the participatory model
  • Lessons learned and shared with the health literacy community

Ways to Learn More:

Hesperian Foundation (English): http://www.hesperian.org
Hesperian Foundation (Spanish): http://espanol.hesperian.org

Domenic Screnci Talks About Visual Literacy (HLOL #9)

Domenic Screnci, Ed.D. is the Executive Director for Educational Media and Technology at Boston University. He also co-directs Boston University’s new online Master of Science Health Communications Program. Dr. Screnci has 30 years experience in the field of biocommunications and serves as an educational technologist, instructional systems designer and integrator, instructional designer and a producer of curriculum materials for traditional and new media based educational projects.

In this Health Literacy Out Loud podcast, he talks with Helen Osborne about visual literacy. Topics include:

  • What visual literacy is and how it relates to health literacy
  • Ways visual literacy helps readers interact with information
  • How to adapt visuals to meet the needs of specific audiences

More ways to learn:

Books & articles:

  • Burmark, L. (2002) Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn.
  • Clark, R.C. & Lyons, C. (2004). Graphics for Learning.
  • Doak, C.C., Doak, L.G., Root, J.H., 1996. Teaching Patients with Low Literacy Skills (2nd ed.). (Chapter 7: Visuals and How to Use Them). http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy/doak.html
  • Gangwer, Timothy Patrick (2nd Edition out Feb. 15, 2009) Visual Impact, Visual Teaching: Using Images to Strengthen Learning
  • Hodgdon, L. A. (1995). Visual Strategies For Improving Communications: Practical Support for Home and School.
  • Lambert, David and Browning Wroe, Jo (2008) Visual Literacy (Bk. 1) Lipton, R. (2002). Designing Across Cultures: How to Create Effective Graphics for Diverse Ethnic Groups.
  • Lohr, Linda L. (2007) Creating Graphics for Learning and Performance: Lessons in Visual Literacy (2nd Edition)
  • “Thoughts on Visual Literacy,” http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy/doak.html
  • “Visual Literacy in Higher Education,” http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI4001.pdf
  • “Information Design: It is all in the process,” http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI4001.pdf

Jan Potter Talks about Using Humor & Graphics to Convey Health Information (HLOL #5)

Jan Potter is a communications specialist with the Partnership for Health and Accountability, a division of the Georgia Hospital Association. Among her many accomplishments, Jan designed a bulletin board system on a variety of health education topics. These bulletin boards are free for others to download and use. In addition, Jan works on a wide range of projects, newsletters, and websites. Her most recent is an online toolkit to promote tobacco-free hospital campuses in Georgia.

In this Health Literacy Out Loud podcast, she talks with Helen Osborne about using humor and graphics to convey health information. Topics include:

  • How bulletin boards help draw attention to important health information
  • Ways to use color, humor, and graphics to engage and empower patients
  • Tips to create your own bulletin boards or build on what others have done

More ways to learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 38, 40.

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