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 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.


  1. Linda Rohret, M.A., R.H.Ed. says

    This is an excellent podcast. I so appreciate all that Stacy said today. There are so many ill-designed Web sites, even for those of us who are “literate.” Stacy’s promoting the advocate role for each of us who are in literacy/health literacy is so true, we must serve as advocates no matter how high the hill appears. Every thing Stacy said is right on target as far as I am concerned. I appreciate, too, her belief the responsibility of the audience being able to navigate and understand is up to us. Thank you, Helen!

  2. Joanne Locke says

    Stacy did a great job letting us know about the Quick Guide to Healthy Living and how it was developed. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to visit the site. Very few government communication projects are tested this extensively, but Stacy and her colleagues at HHS show that it can be done. I appreciate her emphasis on the “small steps” approach – things each of us can do. Maybe we aren’t ready to lose 10 pounds, but we probably can decide to eat fruit instead of chips at lunch today. And making sure the actual users let us know whether we have done a good job with our message is truly the only way to know if we have succeeded.

  3. Our adult literacy program recently incorporated health literacy into the tutor trainings. This website will be a great resource for the tutors to use and share with their learners. It will certainly be promoted at future trainings.

  4. Helen, this is my first time on your site and I very much look forward to listening to all of your podcasts! I started with this post because I had the pleasure of attending a workshop lead by Stacy at a conference last October. I’m fascinated the intersection of health literacy and “web literacy”, and absolutely agree with Stacy’s observation that web designers “work in the world of usability” and how that is the attitude authors of health content must adopt. I was also really excited that Stacy addressed the misconception that “there is no point” to tailor your online health content for audiences with limited health literacy (and literacy and general). With the rise of mhealth and mobile technologies, more and more limited health literacy users will be online, and if pew’s stats has taught us anything, they will be looking for health information!

  5. Thank you for offering this informative broadcast. I recently started blogging about health and wellness and found the information provided by Stacey very useful. I will certainly apply her approach of being “short, simple, and succinct” to my next blog post.


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