doctor advising patient

How to Use Plain Language

We work in an industry that uses a lot of specialized jargon, so it probably comes as no surprise that health literacy is one of the biggest obstacles to accessing health care. In fact, health literacy is the number one predictor of health outcomes. Health literacy broadly refers to a patient’s ability to acquire, read, and understand health care information, as well as use that understanding to make informed health decisions. Having low health literacy can affect whether a patient takes a medication on time, or understands a diagnosis.

But how can we combat poor health literacy? One of the most effective ways of improving health literacy is by using plain language to clearly communicate information to patients. Using plain language is not only useful to providers, but to anyone interacting with or reaching out to patients.

This Dropbox folder contains a collection of our plain language resources, including tools like Simple Writer, which helps you see what words in your text should be simplified, and EthnoMed, which provides simply written texts that explain a variety of medical terms.

If you would like to learn more about how to use plain language, email marketing@vacommunityhealth.org for access to a webinar presented by Health Literacy Media. This webinar teaches plain language writing techniques, communication strategies, and verbal communication best practices.

If you would like to learn more about health literacy, here are some additional articles: