Health Literacy: How to Help

Strategies to clearly communicate your health message.

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. 

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. 

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:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 34, 41

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:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 5, 13, 32, 34, 39

Read the transcript of this podcast. 

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:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 1, 11, 13, 2736

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:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 20, 23, 27, 30, 39.

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.

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 4, 6, 9, 16, 30

Read the transcript of this podcast.

Reporting about the Patient Experience (HLOL #138)

BarbaraLambiaso.2013Barbara Lambiaso is Senior Project Manager for Communications at Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP) based in Watertown, MA. Building on many years of experience in health and health care communications, Barbara oversees all aspects of HealthcareCompassMA.org, a website where the public can find easy-to-understand information and data about quality healthcare in Massachusetts.

In this podcast, Barbara Lambiaso talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Designing a useful, usable consumer website based on healthcare quality data.
  • Making choices about navigation, wording, images, and layering of information.
  • Working with the intended audience to make this website even better.

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, 39.

Read the written transcript.

How to Find and Use Health Apps (HLOL #137)

rschnallRebecca Schnall, PhD, RN, is a nurse-researcher whose work focuses on informatics strategies for persons from underserved communities. One of her many accomplishments is researching ways that health information technology can help prevent disease, improve care, and reduce health disparities for persons at risk for, or living with, HIV.

In this podcast, Rebecca Schnall talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • What are apps? What are health apps? Examples of how apps can provide real-time, personalized, health information that patients want to know and use now.
  • Tips for finding good health apps. Including how to search for what you need, what to be cautious about, and issues of privacy and confidentiality.
  • Looking ahead to what’s next in health app technology.

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: 36

Read the written transcript.

Why Health Professionals Should Go Online (HLOL #128)

Kevin Pho for Health LeadersDr. Kevin Pho is an internal medicine physician and founder of the very popular, award-winning health blog, www.KevinMD.com. Dr. Pho’s unique perspective as a practicing physician and health care social media leader has been recognized by hospitals, medical societies, universities, and mainstream media that includes CBS Evening News, CNN, USA Today and the New York Times.

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

  • Social media: A platform that providers and patients can use to share stories, curate content, and get health messages heard.
  • KevinMD.com. Why Dr. Pho created this blog and how it has changed and grown over the years.
  • Suggestions, recommendations, and cautions about using social media to spread your health message.

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, 34, 39.

Read the written transcript.

Health Literacy & New Technology: An App Challenge (HLOL #115)

LierLanghansODPHPTo reach and teach people “where they are,” the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services challenged designers to create a “health literate app” for use on mobile devices (cell phones and tablets). This builds on health content from ODPHP’s consumer-oriented website about prevention, www.healthfinder.gov

This podcast is with the co-leader’s of ODPHP’s Mobile App Challenge:

  • Ellen Langhans (right, in the photo) is the healthfinder.gov Program Manager at ODPHP. Her role is to ensure the use of plain language and health literacy principles in healthfinder.gov along with its outreach and marketing materials.
  • Silje Lier is a Communication Advisor at ODPHP. She manages the outreach community for healthfinder.gov. She also supports outreach for many ODPHP initiatives including Healthy People 2020, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy.

In this podcast, Ellen Langhans and Silje Lier talk with Helen Osborne about:

  • How people use mobile devices to access health information.
  • What ODPHP’s Mobile App Challenge was and how it led to the development of an app that is creative, functional, and consistent with health literacy principles.
  • Good app features to include action-oriented content, longevity (capacity for the app to grow and change), and functions that keep users engaged.

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: 27, 34, 36.

Read the podcast transcript

WikiProject Medicine: What It is, Why It Matters, How Health Literacy Advocates Can Help (HLOL #106)

photoJames Heilman MD, CCFP-EM is an Emergency Room physician in Canada. He also has faculty appointments at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of British Columbia. Beyond these more traditional medical roles, Dr. Heilman describes himself as a “Wikipedian,” serving as a volunteer editor of Wiki Project Medicine since 2008.

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

  • WikiProject Medicine, the most used medical resource in the world.
  • Credibility, accuracy, and other common concerns about this resource.
  • You too can be a Wikipedian. And help communicate complicated ideas in clear and simple ways.

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, 34.

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.

Using Twitter and Other Social Media to Communicate About Health Literacy (HLOL #80)

Jessica N. Rowden, MA, CHES is Manager for Health Communication and eHealth at ODPHP (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion) at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Jessica coordinates and manages health communication activities for a variety of programs including healthfinder.gov, health.gov, and Healthy People 2020. Jessica also oversees ODPHP’s health literacy initiatives, specializing in online health literacy.

In this podcast, Jessica Rowden talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Ways that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media are like conversations with your audience.
  • Strategies and tools to engage the audience, monitor their participation, and organize messages that you send, receive, and follow.
  • Resources, examples, and ways to learn more about social media.

More Ways to Learn:

ODPHD social media links:

Helen Osborne’s social media links:

Online tools, include:

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

Read a transcript of this podcast.

Using the Internet for Health (HLOL #62)

Lee Rainie is Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Since 1999, this non-profit, non–partisan “fact tank” has studied the social impact of the internet. The Pew Research Center has examined and reported how people’s Internet use affects their families, communities, work places, education, civic and political life. It also studies how people use the Internet for health.

In this podcast, Rainie talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • The rise of “e-patients.” Who they are. How they use the Internet for health.
  • The Internet as a way to increase patient engagement. How Internet usage may differ for those with chronic conditions versus new diagnoses.
  • Ways that health professionals can be active members of online conversations, too.
  • Rainie’s vision of what health communication might be like in years ahead.

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, 33, 34, 35, 36.

Texting Important Health Messages (HLOL #57)

Julie Gazmararian PhD is Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She has over 25 years of experience conducting public health research in both the public and private sector. Her research focuses on a range of topics including reproductive health, children’s health, health promotion, and health literacy.

Dr. Gazmararian has published many articles on health literacy topics including medication refill adherence and use of preventive services. Now she is evaluating an innovative project called “Text4Baby” that brings together text messaging with prenatal/newborn care.

In this podcast, she talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • How “Text4Baby” is being used to teach about prenatal and newborn care.
  • Why text messaging is a communication tool to consider now.
  • What researchers are learning early in the evaluation process.
  • Recommendations for using text messaging in your practice.

More Ways to Learn:

  • Text4Baby. Available for free at http://text4baby.org
  • Osborne H. “In Other Words…Using text messages to improve medication adherence,” On Call magazine. September 18, 2008. Available athttp://www.healthliteracy.com/article.asp?PageID=7987
  • Archer N, Cocosila M, Haynes RB, Yuan Y. “Can wireless text messaging improve adherence to preventive activities? Results of a randomised controlled trial.” International Journal of Medical Informatics. (2009). PubMed. Web. 28 Dec. 2009.
  • Balas EA, Boren SA, Krishna S. “Healthcare via cell phones: a systematic review.” Journal of the American Telemedicine Association. (2009). PubMed. Web. 28 Dec. 2009.
  • Chen WS, Leong KC, bLeong KW, Mastura I, Mimi O, Ng CJ, Phua KL, Sheikh MA, Teng CL, Zailinawati AH. “The use of text messaging to improve attendance in primary care: a randomized controlled trial.” Family Practice. (2006). PubMed. Web. 30 Dec. 2009.
  • Fry JP, Neff RA. “Periodic prompts and reminders in health promotion and health behavior interventions: systematic review.” Journal of Medical Internet Research. (2009). PubMed. Web. 28 Dec. 2009.
  • Haller DM, Patton GC, Sanci LA, Sawyer SM. “Text message communication in primary care research: a randomized controlled trial.” Family Practice. (2009). PubMed. Web. 30 Dec. 2009.

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

Dr. David Blumenthal Talks About Health Information Technology (HLOL #54)

David Blumenthal MD, MPP serves as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (or Health IT) under President Barack Obama. Dr. Blumenthal is charged with building a secure nationwide health information system and supporting the widespread, meaningful use of Health IT.

Dr. Blumenthal’s credentials are extensive. He not only was a practicing primary care physician but also is a renowned researcher and national authority on health IT. Dr. Blumenthal serves on numerous national boards and has authored over 200 scholarly publications, including “Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office,” which tells the history of U.S. Presidents’ involvement in health reform, from FDR through George W. Bush.

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

  • What Health IT is and why it’s needed in healthcare today.
  • How Health IT benefits providers, researchers, and patients.
  • Concerns about Health IT and work being done to address them.
  • What an ideal Health IT world would look like 20 years from now.

More ways to learn:

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Available at http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt/community/healthit_hhs_gov__home/1204

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 27, 30, 36.

Creating Usable, Useful Health Websites for Readers at All Levels (HLOL #34)

Stacy Robison MPH, CHES is co-founder of CommunicateHealth — a consulting company based in Northampton, Massachusetts. As a certified health educator, Stacy uses plain language to meet the learning needs of audiences with limited health literacy skills.

For the past three years, Stacy has been writing and designing health content for Quick Guide to Healthy Living — part of the award-winning healthfinder.gov Web site from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. This site has been tested and developed with close to 800 Web users, most of whom have limited health literacy skills.

In this podcast, Stacy Robison talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • How people with limited literacy skills, health literacy skills, or limited time use online health information.
  • What is different when communicating about wellness and prevention (health promotion) v. communicating about diagnosis and treatment (health care).
  • Ways to design health content so that Web users can, and will, take action.

More ways to learn:

Read a transcript of this podcast.

Communicating Clearly on the Web (HLOL #19)

Janice (Ginny) Redish, Ph.D. is president of Redish & Associates, Inc. based in Bethesda, Maryland. In this work, Ginny helps government agencies and private companies create successful web sites through training and consultation on plain language and usability. Among her many accomplishments, Ginny helped develop the federal website www.usability.gov – a guide for developing usable and useful websites.

Ginny has won many awards for her work and is the author of numerous publications on usability, task analysis, accessibility, document design, plain language, and writing for the web. Her latest is the widely-acclaimed book, Letting Go of the Words – Writing Web Content that Works.

In this podcast she talks with Helen Osborne about ways to communicate clearly on the Web. Topics include:

  • Writing for print or the web. What’s the difference? How are they the same?
  • Appreciating that every web use is a conversation started by the site visitor.
  • Understanding your web visitors by thinking of “personas.”
  • Applying principles of plain language to health websites.
  • Using usability testing to measure how well your website works.

More Ways to Learn

About plain language: www.plainlanguage.gov & www.centerforplainlanguage.org

About usability: www.usability.gov & www.usabilityprofessionals.org

Adam Weiss Talks about Podcasting (HLOL #1)

Adam Weiss is a successful educational podcaster and podcast consultant. An expert interviewer and communicator, he aims to show that podcasting is more about story, presentation, and technique than fancy gear and tech toys.

He was the creator and of the popular Current Science & Technology Podcast for the Museum of Science in Boston, which he hosted for more than two years. He has also created the critically acclaimed Boston Behind the Scenes Podcast as well as the newly-launched Puzzle Podcast.

In this Health Literacy Out Loud podcast, Adam Weiss talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • What podcasts are
  • How people can access and download podcasts
  • Why podcasts are an emerging and important tool of communication

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: 33, 40, 42.

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